Obama's anti-negotiating stance has made an escalating sanctions regime the only available course short of war, one that is likely to lead to war -- unintended or otherwise -- says a former Obama advisor.
By Glenn Greenwald
1 February 2012
Vali Nasr, former Obama State Department advisor
One of the most significant foreign policy controversies of the 2008 presidential election centered around Barack Obama’s pledge ”to meet separately, without precondition” with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.
That seemingly off-the-cuff vow in response to a questioner at a July, 2007, Democratic primary debate was used first by Hillary Clinton, and then by John McCain, to depict Obama as naive, irresponsible, radical and — most ominously — overly sympathetic to America’s enemies.
When the controversy first arose, I vigorously defended Obama’s pro-negotiating position, pointing out that a plurality of Americans and a majority of Democrats were in favor of having the next President meet unconditionally with those leaders, and I further argued that “it is a petulant refusal to speak to the Bad People that is the real fringe, dangerous, extremist position.”
But we have now a great irony: America’s increasingly tense and dangerous conflict with Iran is characterized (one could even say caused) by the unwillingness of the Obama administration to engage meaningfully with Iran’s leaders.
After a few early, symbolic gestures, it has been the administration’s refusal to pursue the most fruitful path for resolving the various disputes between the two nations — namely, direct negotiations and diplomacy — that is most responsible for the stand-off.
As preeminent Iran expert Vali Nasr — the former Obama State Department advisor and current Tufts University Professor of International Politics — brilliantly explains in this six-minute interview, this anti-negotiating stance has rendered an escalating sanctions regime the only available course short of war, one that is highly unlikely, Nasr argues, to resolve the dispute, but instead is far more likely to lead to war (unintended or otherwise, especially in an election year).