American Elephants

Obama’a Embarrassment Over the Exercise of American Power Threatens National Security by The Elephant's Child

November, 2013. President Obama pledged that he would not allow an interim nuclear deal with Tehran to become an opportunity for the mullahs to play for time while squeezing economic concessions from the West. “If Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the [sanctions] relief and ratchet up the pressure.”

That was then, and this is now, considerably over six months, and Iran has announced that it has begun construction of two more nuclear plants, and Iranian authorities have imprisoned a Washington Post journalist on unannounced charges. Senate lawmakers are working on their own sanctions bill. Support for sanctions is strong in both chambers of Congress. Members have noticed that it took strong sanctions to even bring Iran to the negotiating table.

President Obama has warned that he would veto any Congressional attempt to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic if the latest round of negotiations fail. He said, ‘My main message to Congress at this point is just hold your fire,” in a press conference with David Cameron, British Prime Minister. Mr. Obama seems particularly annoyed that  Congress is all about legislation that would penalize Iran only after the current deadline expires and if Iran does not agree to terms. Passing the bill now might offer an extra nudge to Iranian negotiators, and make clear that they cannot string  Americans along indefinitely, as they seem to assume.

Iran clearly sees the administration as exceptionally weak, as proved by the last election. Many in Congress do not believe that Iran has any intention of bargaining in good faith, nor that Iran has any intention of delaying or closing down its nuclear development. The administration and Secretary Kerry seem convinced that a deal is in the cards and that Iran might be offended by threats of sanctions.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been referred for prosecution by a revolutionary court. “It’s difficult,” the  Post noted in an editorial,” to avoid the conclusion that he is being used as a human pawn in the regime’s attempt to gain leverage in the negotiations.” It worked for the Castros.

We err if we do not assume that our opponents are completely aware of what is being said in the media, and draw their own conclusions about what they can get away with. A long time ago, the mullahs took notice when the newly inaugurated Ronald Reagan fired the nation’s striking air-traffic controllers, and changed their ideas about American determination. Somehow I don’t think the cringe-inducing James Taylor concert was a convincing display of a strong and confident America.

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