War with Iran over that nation’s nuclear weapons program is more likely and will happen sooner if President Barack Obama is re-elected as opposed to Governor Mitt Romney winning the presidency.
The president’s diplomacy failed. He appealed to Iran in his inaugural address: “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” Then Obama spoke directly to Iranians in a televised speech and sent Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a personal letter.
Obama restarted negotiations but the latest round ended this summer with no progress. Yet, once again last week, foreign ministers from the so-called P5-plus-1 group of countries – the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany — met to discuss how to advance negotiations with Iran.
Sanctions haven’t worked either. In September 2009 Obama revealed the existence of a secret uranium-enrichment plant near the Iranian city of Qom. That demolished Iran’s claim that it was interested only in peaceful nuclear energy and put in motion Obama’s effort to unite the UN behind new economic sanctions. He personally lobbied the skeptical Russians and Chinese to support those sanctions which were approved in June 2010.
Those sanctions and others imposed unilaterally by the U.S. and with European partners impacted Iran’s oil exports and sent its currency in free fall, driving up food prices and joblessness.
Unfortunately Obama’s efforts failed to persuade the mullahs. The regime continues expanding its enrichment facilities according to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The agency also believes the regime has the technology to build a bomb and is improving its ability to deliver one via a ballistic missile or as Netanyahu said, aboard “a container ship.”
Second, Obama sees Iran as a threat to his faltering Middle East strategy. Apparently, Netanyahu persuaded Obama to see Iran through different lenses and now is cooperating which implies some quid pro quo agreement and the prime minister’s softened tone.
“I very much appreciate the president’s position, as does everyone in my country,” Netanyahu told the UN after Obama pledged to block Iran’s path to nuclear weapons. And Netanyahu’s new red line further defused his tense relationship with Obama.
Apparently, Obama now understands that Iran’s leaders are easy demons that undermine his Middle East strategy. They constantly spew existential threats at Israel, prop up the dictator in Damascus and supply him with combat forces and arms, threaten Arab allies, and support terrorist groups abroad.
Besides, in 2009, Obama refrained from supporting Iran’s nascent Green Movement that faced the regime’s violent crackdown. Obama said he did not want to “meddle” in Iranian affairs following what protestors said was a stolen election. Now he evidently regrets that statement in light of the Arab Spring uprisings that forced him to completely revamp his regional strategy.
Further, Obama appears to reject the view a nuclear-armed Iran would actually stabilize the Middle East which explains his new found anti-containment policy. Netanyahu said containing a nuclear Iran is “like saying a nuclear-armed al Qaeda would usher in an era of universal peace.”
Finally, Obama doesn’t want a nuclear Middle East to be his legacy.
In 2008, Obama promised to do a number of things regarding nuclear weapons and fissile material such as remove weapons from hair-trigger alert, stop the development of new nuclear weapons, seek dramatic reductions in nuclear stockpiles, ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and “lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials.” At this point his only nonproliferation accomplishment is the NEW Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia albeit at considerable risk to U.S. security. Now, the prospect of a nuclear Iran threatens to seriously tarnish that legacy.
There are good reasons to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities before that rogue crosses Netanyahu’s red line. But for Obama there is another and more personal agenda. Iran’s mullahs rejected Obama’s best efforts, undermine his Middle East strategy, and threaten to tarnish his presidential legacy. That’s why, if re-elected, Obama is more likely than Romney to attack Iran and sooner.