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October 8, 2015 5:40 pm

Dennis Ross Reveals Behind the Scenes Secrets of Obama Admin’s Iran Strategy

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

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Dennis Ross. Photo: wiki commons.

Dennis Ross. Photo: wiki commons.

The Obama administration’s gradual shift from a policy of preventing Iran’s nuclear program to merely containing its industrial reality as a fait accompli unnecessarily put a strain on relations between the U.S. and arguably its most reliable ally in the Middle East: Israel. So stated former Iran adviser to President Obama and longtime White House Mideast hand, Dennis Ross, in a revelatory piece for Politico on Thursday.

Not surprisingly given the intense White House lobbying for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear issue has figured into the Obama administration’s agenda since its first few months in office, with two internal camps coalescing early on in 2009 among advisers and officials concerning how to engage Tehran: Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen wanting at all costs to avoid a military confrontation with Iran on the one hand, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her deputy Tom Donilon and Ross pushing for a credible military threat as a means to ensuring the success of the administration’s diplomatic strategy.

According to Ross, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had led Gates and others to believe that the U.S. military could not take another military confrontation in the region. The U.S. should avoid military confrontation at all costs, Gates believed and, often, stated publicly; in 2009, he said a military strike would have cemented the Iranians “determination to have a nuclear program, and also build into the whole country an undying hatred of whoever hits them.”

“Gates and … Mullen … made it clear that we were in two wars in the region and that was quite enough,” wrote Ross — whose upcoming book on U.S.-Israeli relations, Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obamais due out next week — in Politico. “They were not soft on Iran, but they were not in favor of the use of force if all other means failed to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons pursuit.”

But Ross, as well as the erstwhile secretary of state and Donilon were of a separate mind: they believed a credible military threat was necessary to maintaining the leverage to get the Iranians to back off their nuclear ambitions.

“It was a source of continuing frustration that Gates and Mullen periodically spoke of with the terrible costs of an attack on Iran—whether by us or the Israelis,” wrote Ross.

The mixed messages emanating from the Obama administration over an issue Israel perceived as existential deeply unnerved the decision-makers in Jerusalem, some of whom were keen on attacking Iran’s flourishing nuclear program as Israeli jets had before, and successfully so, in both Iraq and Syria.

Ross described Obama’s efforts over the next several years to assure the Israelis that prevention, and not containment, was the Obama administration’s ultimate goal; this included having Vice President Joe Biden adopt the language of “determined to prevent” Iranian nuclear weapons, which remained the official White House line thereafter; drawing the distinction between containment and prevention in policy speeches to the Atlantic‘s avuncularly Jewish Jeffrey Goldberg and the stalwart American Israel Public Affairs Committee; an Obama trip to Israel in 2013 in which Netanyahu said he was “convinced that the president is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

This might explain much of the intense frustration projected across the board in Jerusalem and among staunch Israel supporters: the Iran deal as it stands appears to greenlight a nuclear threshold Iran, rather than a dismantled nuclear program in a country that has openly declared its desire to see the end of Israel.

Interestingly, Ross insists that the catalyst for the breakdown in Obama and Netanyahu’s relationship over the Iran deal was actually a third wheel: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Obama believed Rouhani was a credible Iranian moderate while Netanyahu believed and continues to believe that Rouhani is merely a smokescreen for Iran’s nefarious ambitions regarding the Middle East and, more importantly for the Israeli prime minister, the Jewish state. When Obama put his faith in Rouhani, which ultimately led to the JCPOA, Netanyahu could not reconcile, prompting his more bombastic tactics, such as speaking directly to Congress against the White House’s wishes over the perils posed by the president’s nuclear deal.

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  • shloime

    so is this dennis ross’ contribution to the “hillary in 2016” campaign?

  • Lynne T

    “According to Ross, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had led Gates and others to believe that the U.S. military could not take another military confrontation in the region.”

    As though Gates wasn’t and isn’t well aware that Iran is the principal supplier of IEDs in both of those situations and also stirred the pot not only by arming Shia militias, but also helping the most extreme Sunni elements to provoke all out war and thus involve more of the Shias who had stayed on the sidelines.

  • Jonah

    Ross is a diplomats with his heart in the right place, if he actually believes what he is saying….he is deceived and has the same blinders on Dershowitz had. Those blinders are something similar to, Oh my God Obama can’t be doing to America and the world what we think he is….their minds cannot grasp that an American president would be out to destroy America. So they put on their rose colored glasses, write articles, and hope for the best. Mean while 200,000 Syrians are being loosed in America, we have chemical plants being blown up, a radical force of well trained militia has been unleashed on America and all the pundits are writing articles about Obama justifying his actions. Ross!. You failed to mention Iran receives 150billion dollars and America has sworn to defend Iran if Attacked by Israel. What the pundits Do Not understand is scripture therefore they will be blindsided. They have eyes but they do not see! Our nuclear generating plants will be the next targets and even as they are being hit our western press will be blaming it on dysfunctional operating engenders. America does not want the truth the fact that they elected this insane jihadist is to painful so they choose to create and alternative reality.

    • Isaac Semaya

      Where did you read that Obama said “If Israel attacks Iran The USA will protect Iran?
      Never herd any thing like it.

  • Tony Trenton

    Never forget the Obummer was educated as a Muslim during his formative years in Indonesia !!!

    Obummer’s focus has always been to promote Islam!!!

    Obummer’s actions have always been to strengthen Islamic norms by weakening the USA economically and Militarily !!!


  • Mr Rouhani is not only very clearly NOT a moderate, but also totally powerless against the ayatollah.

  • dante

    anyone, including, most especially, obama, who believes that the opinion of the iranian president means anything is a fool. the iranian president is a puppet, nothing more, of the “supreme leader.”

    so, according to Ross, obama built American policy, of the highest consequence, on an inexcusable and easily extinguished fantasy and he did so dishonestly!

    the only actors who are more loathsome are mullen and gates who were criminally weak and cowardly and who betrayed their offices and the American people.

  • Eric Garver MD

    well this administration has sure screwed Israel and Jews as well as the position and security of the United States. The failure of Obama to confront Iran and lick the boots of a new generation of modern Nazis. The future will be paid for id dead bodies. The failure of cowards led to the destruction of Jews in World War II. Nothing has been learned from history. Never again. Will now happen again.

  • ART

    Dennis Ross speaks with forked tongue.He was basically silent when Clintons eleventh hour plan failed and arafat walked away and launched the 2nd intifada. He has been silent when abbas walked away from Obama/Kerry and ley Netanyahu be blamed.

  • Scott

    Obama has virtually insured there will be a conflict between Iran and Israel.
    The US will be drawn in and as Russia is now actively supporting Hezbollah and Iran…..
    Welcome to WW3. Thanks Mr. President. What a feckless fool….

  • renate rittmer

    Obama has been a weakling, and history tells us that most leaders surround themselves with people who will kowtow at worst, or taylor their advice to the leader’s preferences. We are all in danger because of this. But do we deserve otherwise?

  • Neil Parker

    Remember, GOD is on your side.

  • Laura

    “Obama believed Rouhani was a credible Iranian moderate while Netanyahu believed and continues to believe that Rouhani is merely a smokescreen for Iran’s nefarious ambitions”

    And Obama has proven himself to be such an excellent judge of character – e.g. Putin, Assad, Morsi – how DARE Netanyahu have and express a different opinion!!!

  • brenrod

    strange how the sanctions are not mentioned in this article, which were apparently working.

  • z

    Nuclear energy is the most expensive energy to produce. The minute someone tells you they want nuke plants, you know they want nuke weapons.

    It’s now obvious that the US has lost all credibility, as have all its propaganda organs.