Depending on one’s perspective, President Obama’s address at American University earlier this month was either a rousing defense of the Iran nuclear agreement or an egregious instance of political demagoguery. But one thing the speech underscores with certainty is that Mr. Obama’s earlier vows that he was prepared to use military force to prevent Tehran’s atomic ambitions were disingenuous.
Now that the Iranian nuclear agreement is complete, Mr. Obama’s lack of sincerity is equally apparent in his insistence that the deal’s rejection would put America on the path toward another major conflict in the Middle East.
Read the rest of the essay at The Diplomat.
In a series of posts in 2012 and 2013 (see here, here, here and here), I voiced my skepticism about the credibility of the Obama administration’s tough talk. As I noted then, a chorus of distinguished Middle East experts insisted I had it wrong. Dennis Ross, who oversaw White House policy toward Tehran for a good part of Mr. Obama’s first term, commented that “I think there’s the stomach in this administration, and this president, that if diplomacy fails [to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons] — to use force.” Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security advisor to President George W. Bush and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, concurred, as did James F. Jeffrey, who oversaw Iran policy in the Bush White House before serving as the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad from 2010-2012. And Michael Crowley at Time magazine took the same line, describing Obama as “entirely prepared for war with Iran.”
But in light of events over the past few years, I claim vindication on this point.
UPDATE, August 26: Writing today in Real Clear World, Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, argues that President Obama’s policy in the region is characterized by “high-flying rhetoric” and “making commitments upon which he cannot deliver.” He notes:
When you do not or will not act, words become substitutes for deeds. Part of the problem may be that the administration sees the world the way it wants it to be, not the way it really is. Perhaps part of the issue is a desire to deflect pressure by the use of bold words. Whatever the explanation, to have credibility in foreign policy you must say what you mean, and mean what you say. Sadly, far too many times, the Obama administration has done exactly the opposite.