Calling Obama’s Iranian Bluff

Barry’s Phony Bluff By Jed Babbin
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies.

Building up to today’s meeting, Team Obama has puffed and fumed. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey went so far as to say Iran is a “rational actor.” Indeed it is, but only in the sense of the Iranian theological “rationale.” Iran is governed by Shia “twelvers,” believers in a mystical “twelfth imam” whose return to earth will create a global Islamic paradise. And the “twelvers” — unique among the world’s religions – believe that an act of man can bring about the deity’s return to earth. Unfortunately, they believe that an apocalyptic event is the way to bring the twelfth imam back. This is a rationality that makes nuclear war a career objective for the “twelvers.”

Obama has been making noise about how tough and decisive he is on Iran. In a widely-reported interview with the Atlantic magazine, he said that we “have Israel’s back” and will destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons program if economic sanctions don’t succeed.

Obama also said that, “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.” He went on, “I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”

Obama’s formulations are artful. He says that we would destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons program if economic sanctions fail.

Obama’s “bluff” is open-ended. Sanctions have been tried against Iran for many years, and have had zero effect on its nuclear program. They can go on forever, giving Iran whatever time it needs to complete its nuclear development program. The regime has made its nuclear program a top national priority and isn’t going to give it up peacefully.

Obama wants to sound tough without committing himself to anything. The Iranians understand this. For eight years, George W. Bush said the same things: that for Iran to have nuclear weapons is unacceptable and that all options are on the table. But saying those words and actually trying to effectuate them as a policy are two different things. Both Bush and Obama said the words and did nothing to deny Iran’s nuclear progress. By repetition of words, passage of time, and inaction, two presidents have proven that we are willing to do nothing to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and that, whatever options may be “on the table,” none that will be exercised will be the only thing that can work: extensive and intense military interdiction of Iran’s nuclear weapons development.

Obama now tells Iran not to call his bluff. What bluff? Obama has made no threat with a date certain for enforcement, only that someday, if economic sanctions “fail” will we take military action. That’s not a bluff, it’s barely a schoolyard taunt. It’s rhetorical, a campaign promise and nothing more. The only bluff Obama is running is to the American voters so that he can get through the election without doing anything about Iran (and a host of other war issues, especially Afghanistan).

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