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September 30, 2009

Neocons Attack Geneva Negotiations
Posted by James Lamond

In Geneva, the United States and Iran are holding their first talks in 30 years.  Not so surprisingly Iran’s nuclear program and its recent missile launch tests are topping the agenda.  Nonproliferation is an issue where President Obama retaken American leadership on and he has already made a great deal of progress on the international politicking needed to address the challenge that William Perry and Brent Scowcroft called "real and imminent." Yet conservatives (particularly the neoconservatives) are on the attack. 

AEI’s Michael Rubin wrote in today’s New York Daily News that:

Tomorrow, U.S. diplomats and their Russian, Chinese and European counterparts will join Iranian officials to discuss the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. The meeting follows new Iranian missile tests and exposure of a second covert Iranian nuclear enrichment facility. Iran enters the negotiations defiant. ‘The announcement of the enrichment facilities will be Iran's winning card,’ Kayhan newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader, editorialized last Sunday. The meeting will be a nail in the coffin of the Obama doctrine. Throughout his campaign, President Obama preached unconditional diplomacy.

But as Joe Cirincione points out- Rubin is way off- there has been calculated and strategic politicking:

The key to understanding... [the announcement that Iran had a secret uranium factory] is this: President Obama knew about the secret Iranian facility nine months ago. Before he began his strategy of engagement, he knew Iran was lying about its program. When he extended his hand in friendship, he knew Iran had built a secret factory to enrich uranium. Before he offered direct talks, he knew Iran was hiding a nuclear weapons breakout capability.

Each move was denounced as "weak" and "naïve" by the right. That talk looks foolish today. These were the moves of chess master, carefully positioning pieces on the board, laying a trap, and springing it at the opportune moment.

We now know that Obama was not acting on impulse, or philosophy or general principles, but on deep strategy. He knew better than his critics that Ahmadinejad could not be trusted. He just had a better plan for how to deal with him.

Obama is now well positioned to unite world leaders in a long-term strategy to back Iran away from nuclear weapons. While some nations mistrusted the previous administration--fearing a repeat of the Iraq War--they have more confidence in Obama. They don't believe he will use military force, except as a last resort.

Meanwhile, Obama's missile defense decision--a move that puts more military assets in position more quickly against the Iranian missiles--not only increases the pressure on Iran but allows Russia to move closer to the U.S. position without appearing to be buckling to America.


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