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Obama and the Wages of Weakness

By Michael Freund
2/6/2009, 12:00 AM


While Obama is expending valuable time trying to entice Iran into a diplomatic dance, the Ayatollahs are plowing ahead with plans to build nuclear weapons
Barack Obama has only been president for a little more than two weeks, yet America's enemies can already sense a strong gust of weakness blowing out of Washington.

In a series of unprecedented gestures, beginning with his inauguration speech and culminating in an interview to an Arab television station last week, Obama has virtually pleaded with the likes of Iran and Syria to make nice, cuddle up and, aw shucks, why don’t we all just be friends.

"I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are but where there are potential avenues for progress," the president told Al-Arabiya.

"If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," he pledged.

Needless to say, Obama's unwarranted magnanimity was met with a highly predictable response.

Simply put, Tehran declared victory.

On Saturday, the official Iranian government spokesman, Gholam Hussein Elham, singled out Obama's offer to talk as proof that America's policy towards his country had "failed".

"This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed," he said (AFP, January 31).

Is this really the message the West needs to be sending?

Not surprisingly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quickly seized upon Washington's newfound lust for conciliation by laying out a new series of preposterous demands to the US President.

In an address broadcast last week on Iranian state television, he essentially demanded that Obama grovel and beg forgiveness.

"Those who speak of change must apologize to the Iranian people and try to repair their past bad acts and the crimes they committed against Iran," Ahmadinejad said, conveniently ignoring his own country's decades-long record of taking Western hostages and financing anti-American and anti-Israel terror.

In the same speech, Iran's thug-in-chief went on to insist that the US must put an end to its military presence around the world, and "stop supporting the Zionists, outlaws and criminals."

Sure sounds like peace is at hand, doesn't it?

But just in case the message did not get through clearly enough, the Iranians went ahead and took a series of steps in recent days to further underline just how much their fist remains, as it were, anything but "unclenched".

The Ayatollahs went out of their way to fete Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar in Tehran, treating the two murderers of Jews as if they were national heroes.

And just yesterday, the Iranians demonstrated their increasingly effective ballistic missile technology by successfully launching their first locally-produced satellite into space (Ynet, February 3).

Needless to say, that technology would come in quite handy should Iran ever decide to fire intercontinental missiles at the very same "Zionists, outlaws and criminals" whom it regularly threatens to annihilate.

And then, of course, there is Tehran's ongoing nuclear program, which by all accounts is proceeding apace.

While Obama is expending valuable time trying to entice Iran into a diplomatic dance, the Ayatollahs are plowing ahead with plans to build nuclear weapons.

A report issued last week by the prestigious International Institute of Strategic Studies in London revealed that Iran will soon have enough low-enriched uranium to assemble an atomic bomb by next year (Daily Telegraph, January 28).

That means the clock is ticking, loudly and clearly, and the countdown to a nuclear Iran has begun.

Only instead of acting forcefully to stop it, Washington is trying to talk Iran into changing course. But this is a policy that has no chance of success.

After all, since the summer of 2006, the UN Security Council has passed at least three resolutions demanding that Iran halt its uranium enrichment program.

And despite the imposition of increasingly tighter sanctions, nothing has yet deterred the Iranians from pursuing their goal of a nuclear arsenal.

There is no reason now to think that a few soothing words from Washington will do the trick. Anything less than military force will not prevent Iran from joining the nuclear club.

Obama surely means well, and hopes to diffuse an increasingly dangerous situation through dialogue.

But dealing with radical jihadists and state sponsors of terror is not the same as negotiating a compromise on a budget bill in the US Senate.

Iran and its cohorts neither appreciate nor respect such measures, which only encourage them to harden their stances still further, confident in the knowledge that the US is desperate for some kind of deal.

Indeed, there is a price-tag for this policy, as radicals around the world will take solace in knowing that they have nothing to fear from an administration that can not, or will not, prevent Tehran from getting the bomb.

Rest assured, other foes of America will be quick to try and score points, in an effort to squeeze their own sets of concessions out of the new administration in Washington.

These are the wages of Obama's weakness, and if you listen carefully, you can almost hear the clink of champagne glasses and the sounds of muffled laughter in places such as Tehran and Damascus, as America's foes prepare to cash in.

In a recent interview with the BBC's Persian service, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton sensibly suggested that Obama give Iran three months to negotiate an end to its nuclear program or face attack, in order to compel Tehran to end the crisis.

But Bolton also conceded that there is virtually no chance that such a policy will be adopted, saying that he believed the US had “lost the contest” with Iran.

“America," he concluded, "will not use military force against Iran and we are headed towards an Iran with nuclear weapons."

G-d help us all if he proves to be right.