In today’s Wall Street Journal, political correspondent Gerald F. Seib notes–correctly–that “Iran Is Becoming [an] Election Wild Card,” but prefaces his discussion with this erroneous conclusion:
The Republican critique of the president on this issue is almost certainly off base in one regard. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the last debate declared that “this president should have placed crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not.” Actually, the U.S. has succeeded well beyond most expectations in ratcheting up international economic sanctions, including a European Union embargo against Iranian oil, which would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago.
The key phrase–the tell that reveals Seib’s error–is: “a couple of years ago.” Obama was, of course, president then, and was far behind the Europeans in pressuring Iran. After promising–naively–to meet leaders like Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, reality finally caught up to Obama–somewhat. Even then, the Obama administration has continued to drag its feet on sanctions. That’s not a Republican attack–it’s a bipartisan critique, as demonstrated by none other than Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey in a famous speech last year.
In addition, Obama failed to support pro-democracy protests in 2009, at a moment when they could have toppled the Tehran regime. (He had even invited the regime’s diplomatic representatives to Fourth of July parties at American embassies, and only rescinded the invitations when they became a target of public ridicule.) The careful treatment that Iran has enjoyed–and Iranian proxies like Syria, which the Obama administration coddled until very recently–contrasts sharply with the swift, sharp and short-tempered criticism that Obama has reserved for democratic Israel. And it has not helped that Obama has rushed to withdraw American troops from Iran’s neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan–ahead of schedule, and regardless of military conditions on the ground, sending a clear signal of weakness to the Iranian regime.
The sort of amnesia on display in Seib’s analysis lets Obama off the hook for three years of failure. Worse, it allows Obama to continue to soft-pedal on Iran, even as he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the rest of their benighted party cast aside their previous (opportunistic) commitments to patriotic dissent and blame the Republican presidential candidates for the rotten state of relations between the Islamic world and the west, rather than putting blame where it rightly belongs.
The issue of Iran, and foreign affairs in general, could very well be a “wild card” in the 2012 elections–not, as Seib assumes, because the Tehran regime is ready for talks, but because it is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. If that happens–or, as seems increasingly likely, Israel launches a pre-emptive strike–foreign policy could eclipse the state of the U.S. economy as an election issue. And it is Obama, rather than his opponents, who is “off base” and has the most to worry about.