The Washington Post published an editorial last week criticizing President Obama's policy toward Iran. To recognize how significant this is, we should recall candidate John F. Kennedy's needling of his opponent, Richard Nixon, in the 1960 campaign. Noting that The Wall Street Journal had decried Nixon's performance on economic issues, Kennedy impishly said, "That's like L'Osservatore Romano criticizing the Pope." Well, the Post is not exactly like the Vatican's official house organ, but this is a new and perhaps alarming turn. When even the liberal Washington Post begins to worry over this administration's foreign policy, it's time for us all to take notice.
During last year's successful drive for the Democratic nomination, candidate Obama was thought to have made a major gaffe when he promised to approach the murderous mullahs who rule Iran "without preconditions." His opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton, jumped on that statement as evidence that Obama was unprepared for the serious challenges of the presidency. It was then that she struck back with her now famous "3 o'clock in the morning phone call" TV ad, implying that the untested Obama wasn't ready to take that crisis phone call.
The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Iran's "supreme leader," and is widely recognized to be the real power in Tehran. The ayatollah was busy last week. The 70-year-old Muslim cleric spoke out on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Iran. He said it would be "naive and perverted" for Iran's rulers to negotiate with the Americans.
This is the man whom President Obama approached with an olive branch, with "an open hand instead of a clenched fist." The ayatollah responds thus: "What we have been witnessing is completely the opposite of what they [the Americans] have been saying and claiming. . . . They have not changed their intentions."
And what are those intentions? Obama has said he wanted what Bush and Clinton wanted, what the EU says it wants, what even China and Russia say they want---that Iran not develop nuclear weapons.
To that end, the United States went along with a UN-brokered deal to let the Iranians ship low-grade uranium out of the country, for enrichment by the Russians and the French, so that they could re-import the uranium, supposedly for medical and other peaceful purposes.
Now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is taking 3 a.m. phone calls herself as she vainly urges the Iranian government to abide by an agreement made last October 1. She said the Iranians must abide by the terms of that agreement "because we are not altering it."
Why should the Iranians pay any attention to her? Or to Obama, either? They were too busy celebrating their Revolution's act of seizing our Tehran embassy on November 4, 1979, and the 444-day standoff over 52 U.S. Embassy personnel being held hostage. That this act of international piracy by the world's leading supporter of terrorism is actually a national holiday in Iran should have been a clue to our White House and State Department that the Iranian mullahs do not play well with others.
Isn't it time we stopped treating Iran as simply the most unruly of the players in "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood?" Isn't it time---past time---to recognize that the Iranians are playing for time, that they have no intention of abiding by UN resolutions, Western sanctions, or any other effort at moral suasion? Hasn't time run out?
All of this special bleating---for that is what the last year of Obama policy toward Iran has been---is now revealed for what it was: evidence of U.S. weakness and a clear indication of a lack of realism on the part of this unprepared administration.
More than 25 years ago, Harvard distinguished historian Adam Ulam debated the nuclear freeze with Carter-era foreign policy bigwig, William Hyland. The liberal Hyland---like Obama today---was eloquent and detailed in making the case for a new policy. What Hyland wanted was a freeze on U.S. deployment of cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe. Such a new approach, Hyland assured his listeners, would force the Soviets to withdraw the SS-19 and SS-20 missiles they had already placed in Eastern Europe. The Polish-born Ulam pricked Hyland's beautiful balloon with his heavily accented comeback: "An' wot will you do iff they dun't?"
Professor Ulam's 1982 question hangs in the air today. The Iranians have been stringing Obama and the West along. They just gained another two months as a result of their hokey-pokey ship the uranium out and ship it back in accord. It's clear---even to The Washington Post---that the Iranians are not keeping their word. As we see the deflating balloon of Obama's Iran policy slowly, but certainly, sinking, that pointed question remains: What will we do if they don't?