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Iran: Back to the Failed Policy of the Past

February 2, 2010

The Obama administration and Congress have apparently decided to abandon the difficult and challenging work of developing a new policy toward Iran and return to the failed policy of the last eight years.

Exhibit number one in this decision were the reports this weekend that the administration is dramatically expanding arms sales to the Persian Gulf and planning other new shipments of military equipments in the region. The explicit purpose of this initiative is to “thwart” new attacks by Iran. More likely, the sales will strengthen hardline anti-negotiation and anti-democracy forces in Iran.

Not to be outdone, the Senate last week approved legislation calling for sweeping new sanctions on Iran, including petroleum sanctions that blocking the gasoline imports that Iran depends on to meet 40% of its needs. The Senate ignored the advice of Iran scholars, FCNL, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and dozens of other groups in passing this legislation by a voice vote — which is to say not one single member of the Senate was willing to stand up and oppose this legislation.

As my colleague Jim Fine wrote last week in his blog post, this new policy of getting tough with Iran might make for good soundbites, but it is unlikely to achieve the goal of reducing tensions with Iran and ensuring that country’s nuclear program remains focused on generating electricity:

“Negotiations are much more likely than new sanctions to end the nuclear standoff with Iran. Congress would have helped a lot more by passing a bill encouraging the administration to continue diplomatic engagement with Iran instead of taking a step toward the next Middle East war.”

I would only add that the United States has tried this policy of isolation before. President George W. Bush at the very beginning of his administration (even before 9/11) articulated a policy of regime change in Iran and the results were more tension, more confrontation, and less progress. The Obama administration took office with a new commitment to negotiating with Iran and working multilaterally to solve the outstanding disputes over that country’s nuclear program. Yet after only one year of negotiations the administration already seems to have decided that policy has failed and the U.S. should return to the policy that failed repeatedly over eight years.

That doesn’t make sense to me.

  1. permalink
    February 2, 2010 4:32 pm

    why dont this white house TALK TO THESE PEOPLE instead goeing down this god dam road as BUSH did and nothing is any better than bush why do they keep on rely on their own instead of BUSH you cant tell any difference what a shame

  2. Julie Spickler permalink
    February 3, 2010 1:25 am

    President Obama, in your work as a community organizer you surely found that it can take a long time and a lot of talk to accomplish goals for the community. The same thing is true in international diplomacy. Sure, it’s frustrating and difficult, but it’s not the failed policy of the last administration.

    Threats and saber-rattling may satisfy the hawks, but do we really want to go to war with ANOTHER country? We have better things to do here at home. Another war won’t put people to work, and it won’t make the US look wise, just scary and stupid.

  3. December 16, 2010 8:32 am

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