The Magazine

Obama's Iran Formula

Speak timidly and don't carry a stick.

Oct 5, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 03 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The fundamental problem with the Obama administration's approach to Iran is that it treats the nature of the regime as an unknown. Back in June, after a week of mayhem and murder by the regime in the streets of Tehran, Obama said: "I'm very concerned, based on some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made, that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching. And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is-and is not."

He was right. And the signal was clear to everyone but those determined to ignore it: The Iranian regime is corrupt, despotic, and willing to use terror internally and externally to achieve its goals. And the lesson of its repeated lies about its nuclear program is equally clear: The Iranian regime will stop at nothing to acquire nuclear weapons.

In some respects, the news of the second Iranian facility makes it harder for Obama to pretend that the Iranian regime is something it's not. And one line in particular from his statement Friday would seem to complicate his engagement-at-all-costs strategy. "The size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program."

It is a line that the U.S. intelligence community would not allow George W. Bush to use. Although Western intelligence services had been looking at this facility for years, they had been unable-or unwilling-to draw conclusions about its purpose. When Obama was first briefed on the facility-as president-elect-the CIA had not determined that the facility was for the production of highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

We are left with many questions. What, if anything, changed? Was there new intelligence? If so, what is it? If not, why did the CIA change its conclusion and allow the president to use this language? When did Obama learn that the benefit of the doubt he had been giving Iran on its nuclear program was, in effect, helping the Iranian regime perpetuate its lies?

Perhaps most important, will this public revelation of the facility create the political pressure necessary to persuade Obama to finally get tough with Iran?

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.