Back in May 2009—before the Islamic Republic’s June 2009 presidential election—we took a lot criticism for our view in a New York Times Op Ed that “President Obama’s Iran policy has, in all likelihood, already failed”. In particular, we argued that Obama “has made several policy and personnel decisions that have undermined the promise of his encouraging rhetoric about Iran” and was already “backing away from the bold steps required to achieve strategic, Nixon-to-China-type rapprochement with Tehran”. We also identified the policies that would soon displace Obama’s rhetorical expressions of interest in “engaging” Iran—including a quixotic effort to rope other major international and regional powers into intensifying economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic and a delusional push to unite Israel and moderate Arab states in a U.S.-led coalition to contain a rising Iranian “threat”.
Notwithstanding the denials of “friends” of the Obama Administration at the time, we are now seeing public confirmation that U.S. policy is now going exactly in the direction we said it would. On the sanctions front, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in a speech at the École Militaire in Paris late last week that China faces “diplomatic isolation” if it does not support the Obama Administration’s proposals for tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. We have argued for a long time that the Obama Administration’s approach to dealing with China regarding Iran is incoherent, divorced from Beijing’s interests, and grounded in an assessment of the balance of power between China and the United States that no longer reflects reality. But Secretary Clinton’s speech put these deficiencies in the Administration’s approach in graphic relief, for all the world to see.