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Obama not cautious enough on Iran

Updated: November 2, 2013 6:10AM

The man President Barack Obama is pinning his hopes on for keeping the nuclear bomb out of the hands of Iran is best known for bragging about how he strung the West along with happy talk as a way for Tehran to advance its atomic agenda.

It’s possible, I suppose, that this time negotiations with President Hassan Rouhani will turn out differently than the 2003 to ’05 episode that allowed Iran to complete its Isfahan uranium enrichment facility.

Still, an adage comes to mind: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Rouhani claims there was no deception then, that he told European officials that Iran would finish Isfahan. If that were true, it would only be evidence of how eager appeasement-minded Europeans were to avert their eyes from reality to pursue the illusion of Iranian willingness to set aside Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

It’s hard not to believe that wishful thinking is back with us. Obama insists he will judge Iran on actions, not words. Yet, as history has shown with North Korea bluffing the West while building atomic bombs and Syria already playing a numbers game over how many chemical weapons sites it has, actions can be murky and camouflaging while bolstering the effect of nice but deceiving words.

No doubt sanctions harm Iran’s economy and the lives of Iranian citizens. No doubt the crazy Holocaust-denying rhetoric of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made it easier to rally international support against Iran. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme ruler in Tehran, must have realized Ahmadinejad’s venom had become a liability and wants to find a way to ease the sanctions.

Rouhani couldn’t have been elected president without Khamenei permitting him on the roster of approved candidates. In his U.N. speech last week, Obama said Khamenei had “issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.” The only problem is that no one has ever seen this religious edict. The Middle East Media Research Institute examined hundreds of Khamenei fatwas published by Iran and couldn’t find it.

Thinking that Iran is ready to abandon nuclear weapons requires believing it will dismantle or destroy facilities it has invested billions of dollars to build. That’s a lot to swallow.

What price will Iran pay if it’s caught cheating? Obama insists all options are on the table, meaning a military strike. But he famously drew a red line against Syria’s use of chemical weapons and, when Syria crossed it, he temporized, failed to persuade American voters and allies like Britain that his warning should be enforced, and grasped at straws — accepting a Russia proposal more aimed at preserving Moscow’s client regime in Damascus than punishing it for killing civilians with sarin gas.

Obama and his acolytes said Iran is different, that Obama really, really, really means it when he says all options are on the table. What do you think Khamenei believes?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the U.N. Tuesday, likely debunk Rouhani’s “charm offensive,” maybe share Israeli intelligence about Iran’s nuclear enterprise and urge the West to keep the pressure on Tehran. I fear his message will fall on ears deaf to anything but Rouhani’s beguiling words.


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