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January 2, 2015 1:02 am

Obama’s ‘Islamic Republic’ Doctrine: Trust in Iran Creates a Dangerous Mess

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President Barack Obama arrives at Port Columbus International Airport. Photo: White House. When Barack Obama began his first term as president almost six years ago, foreign policy chatter was prone to including terms like “regime change” and “axis of evil” in discussions about Iran. But as Obama sought to break decisively with the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush, he moved rapidly in the opposite direction, offering an olive branch to the Iranian regime within a few weeks of assuming office.

In March 2009, Obama delivered a message to mark the Persian New Year in which he said, “The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right, but it comes with real responsibilities. And that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.”

As a declaration of policy intent, those remarks were refreshingly free of ambiguity. The reference to Iran as an “Islamic Republic” indicated that Washington’s goal from that point forward would not be getting rid of the regime that seized power during the 1979 revolution, but rather stabilizing it and encouraging it to behave more responsibly.

By the close of 2014, though, it was abundantly clear that America’s Iran policy—based on Obama’s “Islamic Republic” doctrine of trust in the regime—was in a dangerous mess. The nuclear negotiations between Iran and Western powers have yielded not a single gain, allowing the Iranians to continue with their uranium enrichment program while the International Atomic Energy Agency frets about the likely prospect that Tehran is continuing to operate clandestine nuclear facilities.

At the same time, the brutal civil war in Syria, which has claimed 200,000 lives and turned more than half the country into refugees, has massively boosted Iran’s regional standing. The Iranian mullahs now stand at the head of a coalition that includes the dictator of Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, and various Shi’a terror groups from Yemen to Iraq. Yet Western public opinion is continually fed a stream of stories about how “moderate” Iran is under President Hasan Rouhani, and how we have an opportunity here that we cannot afford to lose. When you look at how Iran’s military interventions are destabilizing the region, and when you realize that its human rights record is as lousy as it was last year (and the year before that), one can only conclude that Obama will stick to the policy of turning enemies into friends even when those enemies don’t want to become friends.

Against that backdrop, we come to the president’s recent interview with National Public Radio, in which he restated, when talking about Iran, his conviction that engaging with “rogue regimes” is the right thing to do if it advances American interests.

The question is this: Does Obama still regard Iran as a rogue regime? It would be more accurate to say that he regards it as a regime with rogue elements, but you can only accept that analysis if you share the president’s view that there are moderate parties in Iran whom we can trust. “They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it,” Obama declared. “Because if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”

Everybody? That’s not how the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, to name just two Gulf states, see it; to the contrary, preventing Iran from becoming a “very successful regional power” is their top priority. Ditto for Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and a host of other Arab and Muslim states. As for Israel, it is impossible—literally impossible—to imagine how the Jewish state enjoying cordial relations with Iran while the Islamist regime remains in power. Because even if Israel was willing to entertain such an outcome, none of the mullahs—whether we’re talking about Supreme Leader Khamenei or President Rouhani—would do the same.

As for the Iranians “abiding by international norms,” their slippery and dishonest approach to their nuclear negotiations acutely demonstrates what they think of that idea.

It’s therefore tempting to believe that his personal legacy, and not any dispassionate assessment of geopolitics, is what lies at the heart of Obama’s calculations. As Associated Press reporter Matt Lee observed at a White House press briefing, “Since 1979, American foreign policy, with respect to Iran, has been designed to keep it from becoming a successful regional power.” So what has changed? Certainly not the behavior or the stance of the Iranians. As a senior Iranian military commander said only last week, “There are only two things that would end enmity between us and the United States. Either the U.S. president and EU leaders should convert to Islam and imitate the Supreme Leader, or Iran should abandon Islam and the Islamic revolution.”

Yet Obama wants to be remembered as the president who made peace with states that were previously regarded as this country’s implacable enemies. If we can make peace with Cuba, the logic goes, and end a trade embargo that has prevailed for more than 50 years, why can’t we do the same with Iran?

One president’s legacy of peace, however, can quite easily be another president’s inheritance of war and conflict. The present time would have been an ideal opportunity for Obama to get tough with the Iranians, given that oil prices have collapsed and that the Saudis are content for the price to remain at rock bottom if that makes life harder for the Tehran regime. Instead, America is leading the world—from the front, this time—into another series of open-ended negotiations with the mullahs that could well result in the weaponization of Iran’s nuclear program by the time Obama leaves office.

Never did the bitter words of the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah ring truer: “Peace, peace, they say, when there is no peace.”

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Yale

    The Obama Doctrine consists of three ideas:

    1) If George Bush did it, it must be wrong. If Barack Obama does it, it must be right, even when it is the same thing.

    2) If an enemy state has done something to which we object, endorse the act and ask it not to do it again.

    3) Phrase policy in such a way that no-one can be sure what he means, and then use that ambiguity to claim to be right no matter what happens.

    • charlie johnson

      Leading from the rear with his brain out of gear.

  • Dear Friends,
    Please do not forget few remarks by the President Obama at Cairo University, Egypt, June 4. 2009:
    1- “…And throughout HISTORY, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious ‘tolerance’ and ‘racial equality’. (Applause.)
    2- “…And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against ‘negative stereotypes of Islam’ wherever they appear.” (Applause.)
    3-“I made clear that America is not – and NEVER will be – at war with Islam”
    [President Obama does NOT make it precisely clear what his reaction would be IF Islam declares war on the United States…!]

    Please see:

  • shloime

    obama’s unholy alliance with the moslem brotherhood, and “engagement” with iran, have scared egypt and saudi arabia so far out of the american orbit that they are even willing to openly cooperate with israel. this says an awful lot about how the egyptians and the saudis view the relative reliability of america and israel as allies. and this is the direct result of the policies of a president who set out to repair america’s relationship with the moslem world.

  • Fred

    He is treacherous by bowing to Iran.

  • Efram

    Obama is, and always has been, a covert supporter of terrorism. Even his opposition to ISIS has been luke warm. Obama is not an Iranian booster out of naivete, but out of empathy. If Iran, G-d forbid, gets nuclear weapons before Obama leaves office, he will not be sorry. He has been consistent in giving the cold shoulder to any Muslim regime which is not an active supporter of terrorism. He loves the Muslim Brotherhood, and practically worships Turkey, where it has triumphed. He celebrated when it gained power in Egypt, and punished the country for rejecting the MB. ISIS has provided him with the excuse to openly work towards giving Iran the nuclear weapons it is working towards, along with the delivery system to make these weapons potent at long range. His open hatred of Israel is no secret. And his hatred of Jews is also obvious. The president’s job is to condemn the murder of US citizens. He has done this as long as the victims were not Jewish. Three US citizens were murdered while praying, the most peaceful of activities, and he never said a word.

    Obama is not just a Jew hater and an Israel hater, not just a fervent supporter of jihad and radical Islam, he is actively working to undermine US safety. Iran still states regularly that the US is ‘the great Satan,’ and Obama falls all over himself to embrace this regime. That makes him a traitor. It is too bad that congress is too short sighted to do anything about it. It tried to destroy a US president for engaging in sexual activities, but will not touch a president who is trying with all his might to bring about the destruction of the US. What a world.

    • charlie johnson

      I believe the citizen of the USA are going to soon find themselves in an internal conflict not much different from what Israel contends with.The agitators have clout in high circles of power.Once this operation is set into motion it is very difficult to shut it down.You can be sure there is a link between demonstrators and Mid Eastern activist who want a fight going.The communist had planned a great civil war in the USA and by the end of the sixties it ran out of steam. One of the communist blamed the black Christians for not playing their part.It was the Southern black Christians who refused to be used as cannon fodder for the educated white atheist leaders. A new generation has arrived. Brainwashed by media elites. These people never learn. You can read the book by the golfing parrot.He may have dark skin. But he is not like the blacks of the USA. They who served with honor in the armed forces in battle. I think people underestimate their loyalty. I think the golfing parrot is not cut from the same cloth. The media adores him because he is one of their own.

  • steven L

    The Syrian conflict has also lead to further Islamic invasion of Europe & elsewhere. So Islamists win two fronts.
    You can lead a horse to water (but you can’t make him/it drink). And that is not a reason to sacrifice other countries.
    To compare Iran to Cuba is fanatically idiotic. Cuba never claimed to convert the world nor build WMD.
    Because of his Islamophilia the President is willing to risk the future of the Western world. He must hate it so much if that is the case.

    • charlie johnson

      Cuba never claimed to convert the world? Where were you in the sixties?What was Castro doing while his pal Che was strolling around in Bolivia? What ever become of the Communist wars of liberation speeches? They seem to be missing from the internet. But the plan was to surround and defeat the USA by employing third world nations supported by RED China and the USSR. Do you notice the supply of communist manufactured weapons in the hands of terrorist?

  • David M

    Sadly, this POTUS still believes that an outstretched hand in friendship to an Islamic regime bent on its destruction, will somehow be accepted. His naivete’ knows no limits.

    Iranian power structure imagines itself as the total hegemon in that part of the world. In fact, they already believe that the Strait of Hormuz is Iranian property. Their multi-power vessel navy is fully prepped to attack and destroy any non-Iranian vessels there.

    Mr. Obama hasn’t learned a thing from our experience with the Arab Spring. Iran continues arresting and hanging from cranes anyone it deems a “threat” or an “apostate”.

    If Mr. Obama continues to follow this chimera it can only lead to a final slap in his face by these determined Mullahs!

  • Zerstreut

    Why are you guys so anti-Iranian? The “regime” in question is simply appalled, like many other governments, at the state of Israel who is systematically attempting to uproot the nation of Palestine—the Israel whose majority of population always complain about the genocidal Nazi regime who attempted the same thing about the Jewish people. This deeply rooted tendency in the nation of Israel has created a condition that makes peace with its neighboring states impossible. America will not be around as a supporting super-power for ever.

  • charlie johnson

    His daddy brought him a basketball when he was ten and told him about his dreams.He went to school to learn how to be a clerk.He got a government clerk job in Chicago.He decided to have his school papers classified top secret .Even though he was trained as a clerk,It took several years to find his birth certificate the paper that every young citizen produces upon entry to the US military.All the actors in Hollywood adore him because he is qualified to enter their profession as an actor.Has has never qualified with and M16 rifle or M60 machinegun nor flown even a Piper cub airplane but he runs the most powerful military in history.He has never spent enough time in the military to advance to the rank of private but he fired more generals than any other president.The poorest citizen of the USA voted him in to power to play golf at locations that they never were allowed to enter.

    • Amnon

      Live him to play golf the longer he is on the golf course the less he can destroy America.

    • Scott

      And in your above post, you were just getting warmed up!……:-)
      All true and much, much more……

    • Reform School

      Great observation. The rogue regime is Team Obama.

    • Sonia Willats

      Wow! Excellent article from Ben Cohen, as usual. Thank you.

      Revealing comment, Charlie. Thank you too.

      It would be good to see the other 8 comments. I value both the articles and comments on Algemeiner, but can often not see the comments. (I realise today is Shabbat.)

    • Morteza

      You know what? you people need someone like say J.W. Bush who enjoys expertise in lying to deceive you people into war with his warmonger friends, the wealthy Jewish lobby, and better a person who uses vast resources of Americans and money derived from taxes to kill innocent people all around the globe. You are a warmonger my friend!!! That’s all……

      • charlie johnson

        Are we to believe that these kind folks who strap a bomb on a child and send the child to explode in a crowd of people of assorted traditions and thinking are peaceful people? What if you were on a passenger plane and one of your heroes blew it up? That would be justice.

      • Lynne T

        The Globe & Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson thinks that Israel, Stephen Harper and others who oppose centrifuges for Iran are “unsophisticated” because in Simpson’s mind, giving despotic regimes weapons of mass destruction incentivises them to be more moderate.

        Funny, but nobody ended up regretting Israel destroying the nukes that France was planning on building for Saddam Hussein in 1983 or keeping North Korea and Iran from handing nukes to Bashir Assad in 2007. Now we have a US administration so smitten with itself that it pressured Israel to keep out of it while they “negotiated”, and then denigrated Netanyahu for complying. Facts that semi-literates like Mortaza ignore.