Foreign Policy: The Case for Writing to Khamenei

Foreign Policy: The Case for Writing to Khamenei

At Foreign Policy, Trita Parsi makes the best case possible for President Barack Obama’s recent letter to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Parsi’s argument proceeds on the assumption–we cannot know for sure, since no one outside the White House has seen the text, apparently–that Obama was offering to trade a nuclear deal for cooperation in fighting the Islamic State terror organization. She mocks those, like John McCain, who object.

It is worth pointing out that the Obama administration itself has insisted there is no linkage at all between the nuclear issue and the Islamic State question–so they are denying the deal Parsi is defending. But suppose that they are obfuscating to protect whatever negotiations are ongoing. Parsi’s point is that both the U.S. and Iran have an interest in defeating the Islamic State, and that even George W. Bush worked with Iran on Al Qaeda.

However, if both have that shared interest, surely Iran would want to fight ISIS even absent a nuclear deal? It is not clear, in Parsi’s analysis, why Obama should want to trade away nuclear concessions, or what he might hope to gain in a deal that he would not otherwise receive. 

Our allies also consider a nuclear Iran to be a greater threat–a fact Parsi sidesteps by casting it as a question over whether Obama should have consulted Israel.

Nuclear concessions, if they are even on the table, ought to buy far more than a war against ISIS that Iran is already fighting, and which it possibly believes it can win, at least to its own satisfaction, without us. 

Obama ought to demand Iranian withdrawal from Syria, a complete end to support for terror groups, political freedom for dissidents inside Iran–in short, concessions that will weaken the regime instead of strengthening it.

It is also unclear why Obama, who presumably is in the stronger bargaining position (according to Parsi), would perform the odd gesture of circumventing his own diplomatic team, as well as the new “reformist” Iranian president, to offer what appears to be a kind of supplication, offering yet another opportunity for the regime to humiliate the U.S. (Khamenei’s effective response was to tweet a plan for Israel’s destruction.)

Parsi also fails to address the substance of a proposed nuclear deal, or whether the regime can be trusted to abide by one. She ends by accusing Obama’s critics of bad motives–of wanting war at any cost. “Iran is simply too valuable of an enemy,” she says, accusing (implicitly) the pro-Israel lobby of believing that “a peaceful Middle East is something to avoid at all costs.” 

Parsi might, more plausibly, be accused of wanting peace at any price. 

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