Obama Still Wants a Deal with Iran
France's show of courage at Geneva may only delay the inevitable.
3:05 PM, Nov 11, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
As former French President Jacques Chirac showed in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003, Paris’s ability to project power is keyed to U.S. foreign policy. To stay relevant, France must either take a very public position against the United States, as Chirac did with Bush on Iraq; or it must make its position indistinguishable from the White House’s, as Chirac did when he teamed with Bush to drive Syrian troops out of Lebanon in 2005. There’s no apparent reason for Hollande and Fabius to roll over on the interim agreement just to make Obama happy. And as the Iranian regime reminded us Sunday when the twitter feed apparently belonging to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei published thinly veiled threats against France, the French have had a very stormy relationship with the Islamic Republic, including Iran’s terrorist campaign in Paris during the ’80s.
Nonetheless, France’s show of courage cannot disguise the fact that the Obama administration is determined to strike a deal with Iran. The reason it’s made Iran a partner in negotiations and isolated U.S. allies is because the Iran deal is just one detail in in a much bigger picture. Obama wants to get it over with because the real issue is to create a new regional architecture—one that will bring Iran in from the cold, whether Israel and Saudi Arabia like it or not.
“There’s no Great Game to be won,” Obama said in October at the U.N. General Assembly. As he told the same gathering in 2009, “No balance of power among nations will hold.” Accordingly, allies don’t mean what they used to, nor does American primacy in areas of vital strategic interest, like the Persian Gulf. The effect of Obama’s grand strategy for the Middle East will be to undo the American position in the region.
It’s unclear whether administration officials like Kerry understand what they’ve signed on for. When he was in Jerusalem last week, Kerry warned of a third intifada, and railed against the occupation of the West Bank. “How,” he asked, “if you say you’re working for peace and you want peace, and a Palestine that is a whole Palestine that belongs to the people who live there, how can you say we’re planning to build in a place that will eventually be Palestine? So it sends a message that perhaps you’re not really serious.”
It was Kerry who was eager to restart the peace process, against the wishes of Obama, who in June gave him three months “to produce a resumption of negotiations.” But Kerry’s rant about settlements wasn’t about the peace process—the purpose was to batter Netanyahu. Even as Obama failed in his first term at peace processing, he saw that American pressure on an Israeli leader could tie Jerusalem down for months with anxiety. By making Netanyahu stay on defense with the peace process, the administration could push ahead with the Iran deal.
What’s interesting here is Obama’s instrumental, and cynical, use of the peace process, one of the American foreign policy establishment’s articles of faith, perhaps its holy grail. It’s almost touching at this point to see administration officials lavish such attention on a peace process that, given the state of the rest of the region, is entirely irrelevant. And yet as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently told Jeffrey Goldberg, the U.S.’s “main strategic interests” are “a peace settlement [between the Israelis and Palestinians], and working with our allies to bring some security and stability to the region, to continue to develop their respect for human dignity, recognizing that the ethnic and religious currents are running against those currents.”
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