The U.S.'s Iran Delusion

Sanctions have only seen the acceleration of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

The United State of America is “not setting deadlines” on Iran and is still committed to negotiations which are “by far the best approach” to prevent Tehran from becoming a nuclear power, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared last week.

To ensure the message was not lost in Hebrew translation, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland elaborated the next day, “it is not useful to be…setting deadlines one way or the other [or] red lines.”

So according to the US’s top diplomats, representatives of president Barack Obama who describes the prospect of a nuclear Iran as “unacceptable,” it is detrimental to delineate the thresholds of the intolerable, which at the very least would make the Iranians think twice before dashing towards nuclearization.

Hypocrisy, like Iran’s nuclear progress, knows no bounds.

Notably, Clinton’s comments came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that all efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear progress thus far have failed “because [Iran] doesn’t see a clear red line from the international community.”

So much for the US and Israel being on the same page; consider the Obama administration’s vehement refusal to place any limits on Iran’s nuclear progress as a sharp rebuke of Jerusalem. This is the same “pro-Israel” Obama, mind you, that the majority of American Jews will vote to re-empower in November, and to whom a significant segment of Israeli officialdom deems it prudent to outsource the responsibility of dealing with the Iranian nuclear—existential—threat.

Not to worry, they say. Obama “has Israel’s back.” That is, besides the fact that his administration has completely eroded the credibility of the “military option.”

So how exactly does Obama intend to stop Iran from achieving nuclear status? According to Clinton, “we’re convinced that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good-faith negotiation.”

Given the monumental failure of the three-staged talks conducted between world powers and Iran earlier this year in Istanbul, Baghdad, and Moscow, that leaves sanctions as the US’s most plausible measure.

In Hillary’s estimation, “the sanctions, we know, are having an effect.”

Yet the administration is playing a fool’s game, predicated on invoking Iran’s struggling economy to mask a flawed policy. After all, it is impossible to deny that sanctions are indeed “hurting.” This argument, however, is deceptive, as a devalued rial is merely a means to an end—halting Iran’s nuclear program.

In this respect, sanctions have failed miserably. In fact, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s August report showed that sanctions are having the exact opposite effect of the one intended: Iran is accelerating its nuclear program.

The IAEA confirmed that Iran doubled since May the number of centrifuges installed at its underground Fordow facility, and produced an additional 145kg of higher-grade enriched uranium over the same period. The report again accused Iran of sanitizing its Parchin military complex, at which suspected nuclear-related experiments have been conducted.

That Iran’s response to sanctions—particularly the embargo on Iranian oil imports implemented by the EU in July—is to fast-track its nuclear program proves the regime’s intent to build nuclear weapons. Iran was left with two choices in the face of international sanctions: Stop the suffering by curbing its nuclear progress, or limit the overall suffering by going nuclear as quickly as possible.

The Iranians have chosen the latter.

And that’s why without a credible military threat, sanctions are doomed to fail. That’s why, in the absence of clear “red lines,” the US’ strategy will fail.

Clearly, Israel recognizes this. Last Monday, PM Netanyahu upped his rhetoric: “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

Netanyahu’s affirmation was widely interpreted as a jab at Obama, whose Iran policy is deserving of criticism. Nevertheless, while Netanyahu’s frustration with the US president is merited, his strategy for dealing with Obama perhaps is becoming detrimental.

Previously, by “beating the drums of war” Netanyahu effectively forced the Iran issue to the forefront of the international community’s agenda. Largely out of fear of an Israeli pre-emptive strike—as opposed to the “unacceptable” prospect of a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic—the world was woken from its slumber to take measures against Iran.

These diplomatic and economic initiatives, however, were too little and came too late; Iran’s march towards the bomb has continued unabated. As a result, military action will soon constitute the sole remaining recourse to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

As the Mullahs pose a global threat, Israel correctly wants the international community, led by the US as leader of the free world and whose military capacity is greatest, to assume the responsibility. But herein lies Israel’s dilemma: While Netanyahu’s sabre-rattling sufficed to induce diplomatic warfare against Iran, it has not enabled him to garner support for an actual war. Netanyahu’s rising urgency reflects his inability to date to recruit a “coalition of the willing” to confront Iran militarily.

The stark reality, though, is that the Jewish state is, has always been, and will always be alone when its “back” is against the wall. That Obama fervently opposes even a unilateral Israeli strike—in the face of genocidal Iranian threats—is a testament to this.

Coupled with the fact that time constraints likely preclude the enactment of additional meaningful sanctions against Iran, and that Israel cannot possibly win the battle for public opinion, Netanyahu’s policy of publicly venting his displeasure, which entails revealing Israel’s positions, seemingly has exhausted its utility.

In this event, the implementation of an Iran “blackout” at the highest levels of Israel’s government is favorable. Thereafter, a decision can be made, in due course and behind closed doors, as to whether the country is in fact willing to go it alone against Iran if necessary, or whether Israel will entrust the US with using force to stop Iran’s nuclear program when it no longer can.

Appropriately, it will then be left to those not in the know to debate the wisdom of betting the lone Jewish state’s survival on “hope” affecting “change.”

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