Unofficial presidential spokesman and New York Time columnist Thomas Friedman interviewed President Barack Obama Saturday and unwittingly revealed a presidential strategy towards Iran that is based on plain hope and lots of conditional “ifs.”
In the interview under the title “The Obama Doctrine and Iran”, President Obama elevated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the clear leader in the campaign to bury the emerging deal that is supposed to make sure Iran cannot get its hands on a nuclear weapon.
Prime Minister Netanyahu already has led off a media blitz with interviews on several American television networks on Friday, a strong follow-up to his candid speech to a joint session of Congress last year in which he warned of a bad deal.
President Obama’s defense of last week’s temporary framework for a final agreement with Iran in June expressed his optimism and hope but did little to convince anyone who is undecided whether the emerging deal is worthwhile.
His assumption – giving it the old college try for diplomacy is better than trying force that cannot force Iran into submission – is the underlying difference in views between Israel and the president.
Obama assumes nothing can stop from getting a nuclear bomb if it wants it, and therefore it is best to try to engage it, change its personality, culture and character and maybe, just maybe, it will become a new creature.
Netanyahu and Israel, with more experience than the entire world when it comes to negotiating with the Muslim world, know that force, whether economic or military, is the only language it understands and that there is such a thing as Iran or an Arab country surrendering, even if they call it a cease-fire in order to uphold their honor.
One of President Obama’s weakest arguments in his interview with Friedman was that the policy of “engagement” has succeeded. After pointing out that Cuba does not threaten the United States but Iran does, he nevertheless compared them.
You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies.
The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.
His entire defense of engagement with Iran is based on the defense budget. It is not clear why he even mentioned Cuba since he admitted there is no comparing the tiny country with Iran.
Friedman, Obama’s favorite interviewer, did not bother the president with nuisance questions, such as what followed the Obama administration’s engagement with Syria, for starters.