How Sincere were Obama’s Threats to Stop Iranian Nuclear Proliferation?

Jeffrey Goldberg’s detailed exposition in The Atlantic of Barack Obama’s foreign policy outlook has sparked a wave of media commentary as well as damage-limitation efforts by the White House.  Based on a series of far-reaching interviews with the U.S. president, the piece contains a number of fascinating revelations, including Obama’s high regard for his own decision-making ability and corresponding disdain for the leadership skills possessed by many of his counterparts on the world stage; his suspicion of Washington’s foreign policy cognoscenti who he believes adulate the idea of deterrence credibility and in any case reflect the interests of their Jewish and Arab benefactors; and his disregard for America’s traditional allies in Europe and the Middle East.  On this last point, Goldberg quotes Obama as saying “free riders aggravate me” – a sentiment that Donald Trump holds as well.

So far, however, the exegesis of Obama’s views has missed a fundamental issue: How can a president who makes plain his deep aversion to new strategic entanglements in the Middle East and believes (in Goldberg’s words) that the region “is no longer terribly important to American interests” also insist his earlier threats to use military force to stop Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons were entirely serious?

There is a gaping logical disconnect – nay, an outright contradiction – between these two tenets given that any military action against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure was bound to trigger even greater levels of regional violence and instability that Mr. Obama so obviously wants to keep at arm’s length.

Read the full essay at The Diplomat.

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