In an interview with National Public Radio published Monday, President Barack Obama offered Iran the prospect of becoming a “regional power” in exchange for a nuclear deal. If the Iranian regime seized the opportunity he was offering, Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep, “it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.” Obama said that would be good for the U.S., as well as for Iran and the region as a whole.
The offer is not necessarily new. At the beginning of the year, Obama gave an interview to David Remnick of the New Yorker in which he called for a “new equilibrium” in the Middle East–one that would prop up Iran against Israel and the Sunni Arab states. The resulting balance, in Obama’s view, would promote stability and reduce the need for American intervention. U.S. allies in the region are decidedly less optimistic about that vision: both Israel and Saudi Arabia are alarmed at Iran’s aggressive ambitions.
With his offer of “regional power,” however, Obama has decisively rejected “regime change” in Iran. In essence, he is offering to legitimize the regime–even suggesting a U.S. embassy in Tehran is possible–as long as the Iranian regime changes its behavior, or at least its “rhetoric.” That runs against the advice of experts such as Kenneth Pollack–an opponent of war with Iran–who has suggested that holding forth the prospect of long-term regime change may be the only way a diplomatic approach can succeed.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak