Thursday, February 11, 2010

What to do with a problem like... Iran?

Exciting news! Obama has finally set a date to meet with the Dalai Lama at the White House on February 18th. The bad news: more protests continue in Iran as the Islamic Republic of Iran celebrates its 31st anniversary today.

Accordingly, in regard to President Obama’s engagement strategy, it is interesting to note that Iran wants two things: 1) it wants to avoid any more Security Council sanctions and, 2) it wants demonstrate to its own people that it can sit with the major powers as an equal and avoid any concessions on its part.

Ironically however, the Islamic Republic is choosing to play “hard ball” when it could be enjoying the fruits of Obama’s ‘incentives package.’ (Which, in my opinion, would naturally satisfy its citizens much more, especially considering that most of its citizens favor the opposition party over the Islamic Republic). Indeed, every sign is pointing to the fact that Iran will not be willing to make any concessions. Iran announced Tuesday it was beginning the process of enriching its uranium stockpile to a higher level. To which, the international community had to react by discussing the imposition of new U.N. sanctions.

Now comes the big question, could this stupidity [on the part of Ahmadinejad] dent the credibility of Obama's approach to foreign policy? Yes and no. Domestically, Obama has a lot riding on the Iran issue. Obama has already been under attack by our Republican opponents who disliked his offer of engagement to begin with -- not to mention the fact that he has gotten nothing in return for this 'open hand.' So, if Iran doesn't give anything in these next talks, then yes, I think it will be damaging politically to Obama, and he will have to impose strict sanctions after all. But as for international credibility, I think enough people [internationally] know that the ‘Iran issue’ encompasses much more institutional cooperation than just one figure alone.