November 2, 2007

Obama Promises A Rerun

Barack Obama sat down with the New York Times to discuss his views on Iran, and how he has the policy that will unlock the stalemate with the mullahs. However, what the Times and Obama fail to realize is that Iran has heard the proposal before from the US and others. They didn't take it when we offered it then, and they don't appear prepared to do so now, either:

In an hourlong interview on Wednesday, Mr. Obama made clear that forging a new relationship with Iran would be a major element of what he pledged would be a broad effort to stabilize Iraq as he executed a speedy timetable for the withdrawal of American combat troops.

Mr. Obama said that Iran had been “acting irresponsibly” by supporting Shiite militant groups in Iraq. He also emphasized that Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program and its support for “terrorist activities” were serious concerns.

But he asserted that Iran’s support for militant groups in Iraq reflected its anxiety over the Bush administration’s policies in the region, including talk of a possible American military strike on Iranian nuclear installations.

Making clear that he planned to talk to Iran without preconditions, Mr. Obama emphasized further that “changes in behavior” by Iran could possibly be rewarded with membership in the World Trade Organization, other economic benefits and security guarantees.

“We are willing to talk about certain assurances in the context of them showing some good faith,” he said in the interview at his campaign headquarters here. “I think it is important for us to send a signal that we are not hellbent on regime change, just for the sake of regime change, but expect changes in behavior. And there are both carrots and there are sticks available to them for those changes in behavior.”

It sounds great. In fact, it sounds so great that it's hard to believe that neither Obama nor Michael Gordon or Jeff Zeleny recall that the EU-3 and the US made precisely that offer to Iran in the summer 2005 round of negotiations between the Europeans and Iran. The Bush administration even made the offer publicly in support of the European peace initiative, and even talked openly of restoring diplomatic and trade relations with Iran.

Did it work? No, it did not. Iran had more interest in pursuing nuclear weapons than in WTO membership or normalized relations -- because Iran considers itself at war with the United States. It doesn't want normal trade; Iran wants regional hegemony over the Middle East, after which it can demand trade on whatever terms it likes with the entire world.

Interestingly, the Times never mentions the previous WTO offer in its piece on Obama's proposal. In fact, a search of the Times website doesn't turn up any reference at all to it. The Financial Times managed to report it in May 2005:

During an EU-Iranian meeting in Geneva this week, the British delegation, led by Jack Straw, foreign secretary, made last-minute phone calls to convince Washington that it was important to maintain a common front towards Tehran.

“It was a last-minute thing that could have broken down if the Americans had stepped back [from their commitment on the WTO],” one diplomat told the Financial Times.

After the US confirmed that it would lift its perennial veto on WTO accession talks, Tehran agreed to maintain a freeze on its nuclear programme until early August, by which time France, Germany and the UK will produce new proposals for a settlement.

Basically, Obama wants a rerun of 2005, despite its lack of any success in stopping the Iranian march to nuclearization. I like reruns, too, but I draw the line at Jimmy Carter-style ignorance.

Obama's naivete gets revealed in his assertion that Iran has acted "irresponsibly" in Iraq. To our eyes, of course they have, but only if one thinks that Iran wants to have normal relations with the US. They don't. They want us out of the Middle East, leaving our allies unprotected, in order to better project their own power. Attacking American troops through proxies allowed them to stoke political pressure to retreat from Iraq here in the US, which would have brought them closer to their goals. That can be called many things, but "irresponsible" is not among the first adjectives that comes to mind.

It comes as no surprise that neither Obama nor the Times realizes that the WTO offer had already been made by the Bush administration and rejected by the Iranians. It does come as a surprise that people take either one very seriously on foreign policy.


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From the NYT: In an hourlong interview on Wednesday, Mr. Obama made clear that forging a new relationship with Iran would be a major element of what he pledged would be a broad effort to stabilize Iraq as he executed... [Read More]

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