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Obama Goes Soft on Iran

12:31 PM, Feb 18, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Even the Los Angeles Times notices that President Obama has gone soft on Iran:

Despite the Obama administration's vows to cripple Iran with economic sanctions, it is leaders in Congress and Europe who have seized the lead in the West's long-running campaign to punish Tehran for its suspected nuclear weapons program.

In recent months, the toughest moves to deter Iran from pursuing its presumed nuclear ambitions have come from a bipartisan group in Congress and European allies, especially Britain and France. The White House at first resisted these steps before embracing them as inevitable.

The administration has imposed dozens of sanctions on Iran since 2009, but it has carefully calibrated their effect. Officials fear that too powerful a blow to the world's third-largest oil exporter could cause an oil price increase, damaging the global economic recovery, undermining international support for the sanctions campaign and creating political trouble in an election year.

Yesterday, Elliott Abrams noticed top intel officials playing down the Iranian threat to Congress:

It is difficult to read the transcript of the [Captiol Hill] hearing without concluding that there was an effort to downplay the threat posed by Iran. The tougher assessments almost always came from the witnesses only when they were pushed and pulled by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. What other conclusion is possible when, as noted, some of our own key intelligence officials appear less balanced and concerned in characterizing the Iranian nuclear program than the IAEA?

It’s a matter of emphasis, of course: One can stress the fact that we can’t read the supreme leader’s mind and that Iran can always slow down its nuclear program, as it apparently did in 2003, or one can stress that Iran would not be doing what it is doing unless it had nuclear weapons as the obvious goal. One can try to be factual, in the way the November IAEA report is, or use words that diminish the threat we face. The mystery that emerges from the hearing is not what Iran is up to but what the witnesses were doing. Had the White House asked them to serve as human Prozac doses, calming down what it saw as overly excitable and hawkish senators? Had they decided, within the intelligence community, on that objective? Was this another example of the intel community's reaction to the accusation that it politicized and overplayed the Iraqi nuclear threat, leading it now to underplay the Iranian nuclear threat? Perhaps it was just a desire not to become part of the heated Iran policy debate on the part of a straight shooter and old pro like Burgess of DIA. If it was the latter, it didn't work. 

Whole thing here.

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