Gregg Roman

The Old Potomac Two Step

The White House is hell bent on achieving hegemonic equilibrium, or strategic parity, between Iran, the Gulf States (and Egypt) and Israel. The Obama administration, with Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes acting as point, has adopted a strategy of forcing highly unpopular diplomatic equations to promote the balance of power between opposing states, and their poly-polar alignments, in the Middle East. The cost? Tearing to shreds 35 years of supporting and gaining the trust of American allies, like Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia in the pursuit of promoting American interests and regional stability. The result? A new American posture that protects the interests and ambitions, not of itself, but of an internationally recognized Iran characterized and legitimized as a nuclear threshold state.

This paradigmatic shift in America’s view towards the region has also led to genocide, ethnic cleansing, the rampant use of unconventional weapons, Russia’s kinetic reentry to the region for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, the potential onset of covert nuclear arms programs and the world’s greatest refugee crisis since World War II. By attempting to make the Middle East power structure more egalitarian, chaos now reigns free. The most important conclusion one must make when analyzing this policy is that it has led to a less secure America.

I drove to Atlantic City last week to participate in a debate on the Iranian nuclear deal. As I meandered my way on back roads to the Jersey shore, I envisioned that my conversation on the Iranian nuclear deal with supporters and detractors on the panel was about to go the way of an unfortunate ‘cospiratore’ caught in the Pine Barrens on the wrong side of a Soprano family dispute. Dead on arrival. If I came out against the deal, I would be in favor of war, according to our President.

The arguments presented by a Republican member of Congress, a representative from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), a mid-level White House National Security Council (NSC) official and a senior Israeli diplomat provided a relevant backdrop to the larger national debate going on around the Iranian nuclear deal.

The Israeli position was obvious: The official repeated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the deal articulated since Bibi’s speech to Congress last March.

The Republican member of Congress concurred with the Israeli position and attacked the Obama administration for selling out American securityand its allies in the region to Iran.

The JCPA, a Jewish public policy umbrella organization (representing both left and right wing organizations), position was to not have a position. Unfortunate, but expected.

The NSC official, who happens to moonlight as head of the White House’s Iran desk, said:

“The deal has a series of punitive measures…a mini snapback if you will rooted in US domestic policy that will inevitably lead, if there is a violation of the agreement, to [America] punishing Iran and enacting a cost against the Iranian regime. There is a staggered means of assessing costs on Iran for any material breach [of the agreement].”

The moderator took an informal poll of each panel member and asked if they believed the Iranians would violate the deal. The NSC official raised his hand and indicated that Iran will most likely not hold to its word of keeping its end of commitments laid out in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iranian nuclear deal). The Obama administration believes Iran is going to cheat on this deal.

I know we were in Atlantic City, but I don’t think the most egregious, pathological and indebted gambler would take a bet on Iran holding up its end of the bargain after hearing that statement.

Why would the United States sign a deal with a regime that has killed American soldiers, acts as and admits it is the largest supporter of terrorism in the world and openly declares America to be its greatest enemy? Especially when you expect them to violate the agreement in the near future? Why would we risk turning an already dangerous Iran into an even more dangerous Iran that will now be a threshold nuclear weapons state when we expect them to violate the very same deal that is meant to prevent them from becoming a nuclear weapons state?

Perhaps, as White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest posited in July, this deal will make it easier for America to attack Iran. That position infuriated the Iranians, and the White House quickly dumped that talking point. The answer I received from the official was: This agreement is about the nuclear issue. We are not trying to tackle any other issue Iran may be responsible now or in the future. In other words, this deal was born out of a complete lack of strategic foresight, polymorphic ignorance and gross ineptitude in handling American international relations with Iran and America’s allies in the region.

Shockingly, I was not surprised. Ignorance has been the mainstay of the Obama administration’s policy towards Iran since it failed to support the Green Movement led by Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi during the June 2009 Iranian Presidential election. For the last six years Iran’s opposition has been beaten, murdered, raped and hung in the streets of Tehran as the Obama administration has sought short term rapprochement and detente with the Ayatollahs at the expense of inviting long term instability and hostility in the Middle East. Neda Agha Soltan, the young woman slaughtered by the Iranian Basij militia and the face the world remembers from the failed Green uprising, must be somber in heaven as her memory fades in the wake of Iranian atomic dreams.

Scandal and hidden agendas have a long history of being the chatter of parlor conversations and Sunday talk shows in Washington DC. Not so for the most transparent administration in history; their strategic blunders, folly and shortsightedness at policy making is broadcast around the world on live TV, streamed on YouTube and captured by social media. Never have the architects of a diplomatic blueprint danced the old Potomac two step from the Oval Office down Pennsylvania Avenue and straight and through the halls of Congress with the explicit purpose of promoting deceitful and dangerous engagement with America’s greatest enemy.

For all the naiveté, myopic conjecture and feckless posturing (a daily dose offered by the Obama administration’s public affairs team) floating out of the White House and infighting in the Democratic Party in Congress around this agreement, the active promotion of power sharing with Iran is bound to continue for the next 16 months until a new President takes office. That is, unless the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameni or the Majils, Iran’s parliament, rejects the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

So how do we move forward out of this mess? I’m finding it hard to be sanguine or cheery in the wake of this disastrous agreement approaching implementation now that the President has secured a minority to pass an agreement a majority of Americans disagree with. It is important to highlight challenges America faces abroad the day after the agreement passes, beyond the Iranian nuclear file.

America’s ability to influence actors and nation states in the Middle East is in turmoil; amateurish diplomatic uncertainty exhibited with ambivalence towards our closest partners and embracing age old enemies. Our allies in the Middle East are being bought off with arms packages and empty promises of collective defense. Our enemies are being offered diplomaticand military protection. Even the American Air Force is providing cover for Iranian backed militias and the top Iranian clandestine operative, Qassem Solemeini, responsible for the deaths of innocent Americans in Beirut, Saudi Arabia and our soldiers in Iraq.

What world do we want to live in today? One in which we exhibit our greatness (not to be too cliche in borrowing an outspoken, bellicose Presidential candidate’s slogan) to our allies and lead? We must stop partaking in diplomatic processes geared towards ameliorating our enemies’ concerns which in turn they use to rally against.

We must turn towards defeating them, and if need be, on their own turf. It’s time to unravel this policy of attempting to find a balance of power and “resetting” hegemonic equilibrium in the Middle East. America need not dance between the Gulf and the Mediterranean, we must dominate.

About the Author
Gregg Roman is Director of the Middle East Forum, a research center headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.