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Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Iran Deal Is Strategically and Morally Absurd


It was surely Barack Obama’s profound aversion to the use of American military power that so enfeebled his nuclear diplomacy and made his atomic accord with Iran the worst arms-control agreement since the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. I do not know whether a more forceful president and secretary of state—say a Democratic version of Ronald Reagan and George Schultz—could have gotten a “good deal” with Tehran; it just boggles the mind to believe that a better deal wasn’t possible. A stronger president and secretary of state certainly would have been willing to walk away. Neither captured by Iranian demands nor the mirage of “moderate” mullahs and engagement, more astute, less fearful men would have been more patient, and more willing to let sanctions bite deeper into the economy and political culture of the Islamic Republic.

Obama was, to borrow from The New York Times’s Roger Cohen, America’s first “post-Western” president, a man deeply uncomfortable with American hegemony and the essential marriage of diplomacy and force. By 2013, when Hassan Rouhani won Iran’s presidential election, Obama made it increasingly clear that he was unwilling to fight over the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons ambitions. He was also unwilling to do anything to brake the Islamic Republic’s rising Shiite imperialism, which in Syria led to the massive slaughter and flight of Syrian Sunnis who’d rebelled against Bashar al-Assad’s tyranny. And what happened in 2012-2013 in Syria and Iraq—with the absence of America—triggered the rise of the Islamic State and has now set the stage for a regional conflict that we haven’t seen since Saddam Hussein was running amok...

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