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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
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As Goldberg notes, Hagel is a proponent of linkage, the idea that settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to solving the region’s many other problems. Maybe Obama used to think this way, too. Israeli-Palestinian peace, he said in 2008, “will also weaken Iran…If we’ve gotten an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, maybe at the same time peeling Syria out of the Iranian orbit, that makes it easier to isolate Iran so that they have a tougher time developing a nuclear weapon.”

If he believed it back then, Obama no longer sees the world like this. In pushing for a deal with Tehran that will not roll back, or even freeze, progress on an Iranian nuclear weapon, Obama is not trying to give them a tougher time developing a bomb. He doesn’t care if Syria is peeled out of the Iranian orbit, because in signing on to the Russian initiative to get rid of Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons and thereby preserve the Syrian regime, Obama has acquiesced to Iran in Syria. Even after every senior administration official, except for White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, concluded that the United States should arm the rebels to bring down Assad, Obama, “impatient and disengaged” refused to budge.

That is to say, there is a mainstream American foreign policy consensus on the Middle East that broadly includes Democrats and Republicans, and Obama is outside it. Administration officials and Obama supporters in the press have assumed he saw the world like they do, which is why his ideas, taken individually, seem reasonable, even familiar. Sure, say the president’s advocates, Israel is an American ally, and an important one, but the Israelis can also be a nuisance, especially when they’re led by a Likud government. So what if Saudi Arabia is upset because they’re not getting enough love from Obama? Tough. Let them defend themselves for once. Anyway, the United States is moving toward energy independence so we don’t need the Saudis like we once did. We don’t want conflict with Iran because Americans are tired of war, and the Middle East, too, and we can contain and deter a nuclear Iran if we have to. And historical reconciliation, a grand bargain, with the clerical regime is one of the collective dreams of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. But of course what the administration is offering Iran is not really a bargain but acquiescence.

The president is diminishing a superpower and in due course Americans will feel that diminishment as their own.

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