Obama’s ‘Engagement’ on Iran ‘Was a Cover’ for Pressure and Coercion

One of the most prevalent criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy on Iran is that he appeased those conniving mullahs and allowed them to charge full speed ahead on a nuclear weapons program. This is the type of critique you hear from establishment DC think-tanks, Republicans in Congress, and right-wing talk shows. If only he had threatened Iran with imminent attack, they opine, the mullahs would have been deterred.

The problem is that none of this is true. Beyond a few empty words about diplomacy at the beginning of his administration, President Obama has chosen to pressure, bully, and threaten Iran virtually without deviation. And that is what has pushed Iran to continue to its defensive postures and to continue to enrich uranium (albeit in what remains a civilian nuclear program).

In his New York Times column today, Richard Cohen reviews Vali Nasr’s book  The Dispensable Nation. Nasr criticizes Obama’s foreign policy with an inside perspective (he was “senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan until his death in December 2010”). His conclusions are revealing:

In Iran, Nasr demonstrates Obama’s deep ambivalence about any deal on the nuclear program. “Pressure,” he writes, “has become an end in itself.” The dual track of ever tougher sanctions combined with diplomatic outreach was “not even dual. It relied on one track, and that was pressure.” The reality was that, “Engagement was a cover for a coercive campaign of sabotage, economic pressure and cyberwarfare.”

Opportunities to begin real step-by-step diplomacy involving Iran giving up its low-enriched uranium in exchange for progressive sanctions relief were lost. What was Tehran to think when “the sum total of three major rounds of diplomatic negotiation was that America would give some bits and bobs of old aircraft in exchange for Iran’s nuclear program”?

Incidentally, these are the same conclusions myself and many others have been writing about at Antiwar.com for years.

The crux of the book, Cohen relates, is the following quote from Nasr: “It is not going too far to say that American foreign policy has become completely subservient to tactical domestic political considerations.”

“Nasr was led to the reluctant conclusion,” Cohen writes, “that the principal aim of Obama’s policies ‘is not to make strategic decisions but to satisfy public opinion.'”

(See my earlier piece which quoted Nasr condemning the sanctions on Iran as ineffective and counterproductive.)

2 thoughts on “Obama’s ‘Engagement’ on Iran ‘Was a Cover’ for Pressure and Coercion”

  1. I agree as to Iran; and unfortunately the author’s observations also apply to US foreign policies in other regions including Latin America and Asia. President Obama seems unaware of the recent emergence of CELAC (33 of 35 nations in the Western Hemisphere, excluding only the US and Canada), an organization obviously born of disgust with the Monroe Doctrine. President Obama also appears impervious to the fact that Asian nations are no longer content with economic subservience to the US, and are moving ahead with cooperative trade agreements excluding the US. It is indeed sad that there exists a bipartisan chauvinism in our nation’s Government which combines with partisan politics to accomplish a needless decline in our common welfare.

  2. The US government is not to be trusted in any kind of "deal" or promise. The words "Honesty" and "Integrity" are not in the lexicon of any recent US administration.

    1. I am afraid that the situation is much worse than you suggest AGR. It goes beyond "any recent US administration. How about the slaughter of the original inhabitants, the American Indian who complained about treaties being thrown out the window ("white man speaks with forked tongue"). Or how President Polk in 1848 lied his way into appropriating 1/3 of Mexico's territory. Or the treacherous way we used and abused Josef Stalin with lies and false assurances. Despite how bad things have become in recent times, there is a long and inglorious history of bad faith dealings by the US leadership.

      1. Sadly, you are correct. Add…
        the slaughter in the Philippines, or Wilson's promises of "self determination" for all people…or…or

  3. If I may ask this 2 question to be answered by John Glaser, or the leader, the ideologue, the planer or any other from the Democratic Party or anyone whom is engaged and preaching for democracy in USA and rest of the world…, 1-what is democracy and why such democracy.., that is to say if is a functioning one.., needs to be imported and why with a force of the US militarism.., 2- who is America and why America is so interested to implement.., once again by force.., such democracy.., that is to say if is a functioning democracy at home.., to be imposed to rest of the world knowing that such policy has failed since Vietnam war…, knowing that the democracy is manipulated by an economic system that never ever been working and is about few and not the people. Any one….,

    1. Mojo, we do not have, nor does the ruling junta want democracy as was originally practiced by the Greeks. Holding regular elections is not to be confused with legitimate democracy, where the preferences of the people have a true voice. The power elite has no interest in such an arrangement because the "wrong" types might countervene their monopoly. With such a monolithic propoganda machine in the mainstream media, and the large sums of $$$ necessary to run a campaign we may never see a true open and fair election. Hardly any of those in power today would be on my short list of representing my interest or viewpoint.

      1. Thank you.., although the Greek was the founder of democracy.., but Romans democracy is the one that practiced today in US and other countries yet with different political names and structures.., Romans used their militarism to conquer the world so is US as we speak.., nonetheless, voting is only the right of people to vote, but corrupt and manipulated structure of "democracy" becomes falsified by the way you describe the functionality of the present US democracy. in another word.., beside the right to vote of the people there are no other democracy such as economical rights of people as.., universal healthcare, good paying jobs, safe and secure pension, free educations for all and…., doesn't exist .., knowing all that.., knowing that US government and their manipulated ideologues knows all that then US of A government is nothing but.., A-militarism regime B-presenting nothing new for the world to participate in their enforced democracy as Romans. simplifying the matter.., there is no such thing as functioning democracy in US but a structured militarism with a vulture capitalism economic system.

  4. The Israel lobby in US will never let any politician including any President do what makes sense.

  5. "the principal aim of Obama’s policies ‘is not to make strategic decisions but to satisfy public opinion.’”

    Utter nonsense. Obama couldn't care less about "public opinion" (except during an election year – which is why he didn't attack Syria last year.)

    Obama is owned and operated by the military-industrial complex and the Israel Lobby. They are the only people – along with Wall Street bankers (the way Bush listened to the oil companies) – that he listens to.

    It's amazing how many people – even in the antiwar movement – are STILL drinking the Obama Kool-Aid and don't realize how corrupt and subservient to the powers that be this man actually is.

    "Change you can believe in"! Yeah, right! Apparently the "believers" still hold sway.

  6. The US government is not to be trusted in any kind of "deal" or promise. The words "Honesty" and "Integrity" are not in the lexicon of any recent US administration.

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