• Obama Should Go to Tehran

    September 12, 2014

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Iran, Iraq, Syria

    Obama left out the most important word of all in his speech outlining a strategy for Iraq: Iran.

    For if Iran is the 500 pound gorilla in the room with Iraq, it is the 800 pound monster in the Middle East. No real stability can be achieved without Iran. It is time for the president to go to Tehran.

    Boots on the Ground

    For all the talk about boots on the ground for America’s air offensive in Iraq and Syria, Obama ignored the ground truth: Iranian forces are already there. The Iranians also command enough attention in Baghdad to significantly enable or stall filling the cabinet positions of Defense and Interior (Maliki held both portfolios personally) that are key components of any sort of “inclusive” government. Tehran’s real advantage? Everyone in Iraq remembers it is the Iranians who never really withdrew after 2011.

    The Iranians truly understand the cross-border nature of the Middle East. An Iran that works closely with America will yield some version of stability in Iraq, affect the war in Syria (Iran, through its many proxies, including Hezbollah, has supported Assad by fighting his Sunni rebel enemies, moderate and radical alike), perhaps reduce pressure on Israel, and could calm the entire region by acting less bellicose toward a less bellicose United States. This would enable the comprehensive actions needed in the Middle East to slam shut the doors the United States blew open in 2003. Obama’s Iraq plan has already failed in Libya, Yemen, and Somalia to produce any but the most fleeting “successes.” The Brits and Germans won’t fight in Syria, and Turkey is reluctant to go in deeper, weakening any talk of coalitions. As Obama becomes the fourth president in a row to order war in Iraq, a new solution is needed.

    Obama Should Go to Tehran

    There is little to lose. After the midterms, he will be a true lame duck. Candidates can run against his failure, or bask in his success. With a dramatic gesture, Obama can start the process of re-balancing the Middle East. Too many genies are out of the bottle to put things back where they were.

    Tough realities will need to be acknowledged regarding nukes. Having watched America’s serial wars across the region, and the sort of odd deference shown to North Korea after it went nuclear, the Iranians will never back away completely. Tehran also watched closely what happened in Libya. Qaddafi gave up his nukes and ended up dead, while the Secretary of State laughed about it on TV. Obama cannot move forward without accepting that he cannot paint himself into a corner over Persian nukes. Israel has had the Bomb for a long time without creating a Middle East arms race. Let the Iranians stay comfortable, albeit in the threshold stage of nuclear weaponry.

    To begin, follow the China model — set up the diplomatic machinery, create some fluid back channels, maybe try a cultural exchange or two. They don’t play ping-pong over there, but they are damn good at chess. Offer to bring Iran into the world system, slowly, and see if they don’t follow. Give the good guys in Tehran something to work with, something to go to their bosses with. Iran has reasons to play. Regional stability can benefit its own goals. Removal of sanctions can grow its economy, and allow it to sell oil in global markets. Calmer borders allow Iran to focus limited resources on domestic problems.


    Change in Iran, like anywhere, has to come from within. Think China again. With prosperity comes a desire by the newly-rich to enjoy their money. They demand better education, more opportunities and a future for their kids. A repressive government yields to those demands for its own survival and before you know it, you’ve got iPads and McDonald’s. Despite some tough talk aimed at both sides’ domestic constituencies, America and China are trading partners, and have shared interests in regional stability. In a way, as China was to the Soviet Union, Iran can counter-balance undue Saudi influence on American actions. There will be friction, but it can be managed, what President Kennedy called during the Cold War the “precarious rules of the status quo.”

    Islamic nationalism is a powerful force in the Middle East, and the defining mover of world events in our time. It is not going away. American attempts to create “good” governments failed in the Middle East. The new world order created a place for countries that are not a puppet of the United States, and not always an ally, but typically someone the nation can work with, maybe even influence occasionally. That’s statesmanship, and a chance at stability in the Middle East. Perhaps even a chance for a beleaguered and exhausted American president to finally earn his Nobel Peace Prize.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      More bullshit from the usual “intelligence” suspects that “ISIS numbers between 20,000 and 31,500.” Not 31,000…. 31,500. Who really believes anything these proven liars say?


      All US efforts have made a bad situation worse.

      Obama should not go to Iran.

      The US should do nothing.

      09/12/14 2:57 PM | Comment Link

    • N. Olson said...


      I favor a president performing an official state visit to Susa/Persepolis/Tehran. However, it must be recognized that such a court pageant would implicitly and explicitly involve the delivery of a long overdue message of national regret. Given the extreme delicacy of such a mission, I am wondering who amongst the honorable living would be most convincing as the penitent deliverer of this mea culpa for admissible, benevolent mistakes made since America’s imperial rise to pride of place in the global Great Game… Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Oliver “No Drugs” North, James Baker, Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama or all the above? Anyone yet breathing who has finger prints on the thoroughly justifiable, defensible and sober removal of Mossadegh? Perhaps we could exhume and include Eisenhower’s good ear in the apology delegation? Sending Jimmy Carter would entail a minimal but obvious irony for those long enough in the tooth to recall the special relationship with the last austere and benevolent Pahlavi occupant of the Peacock Throne. In an act of humble, christian contrition, Mr. Carter could nail together something shelter-wise for the orphaned, widowed and dispossessed, perhaps built in part of presidential Nobel Peace Prizes and modeled on either the Azadi Tower or the Tehran Peace Museum. A pragmatic, future security alliance won’t be built out of bullheadedness, Janus-faced machinations and continued, overt retribution. The eternal flame of hope can burn brighter? Nothing is impossible, when and where the will exists? Political power is for using, in the service of empire, not looking at under glass? At least the precedent set by more than one Caesar Augustus/Imperator/Basileus debasing himself should take some of the sting out of the unavoidable for our co-retired or current president(s). I look forward to the ice breaking exchange of chess masters.

      09/12/14 10:01 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      “In an act of humble, christian contrition, Mr. Carter could nail together something shelter-wise for the orphaned, widowed and dispossessed, perhaps built in part of presidential Nobel Peace Prizes and modeled on either the Azadi Tower or the Tehran Peace Museum.”


      bartender,…who was that masked man? sheezus. I almost fell off my bar stool.

      09/13/14 3:58 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      I’m agreeing with Bauer. I’m surprised at PVB for even coming up with the idea. Peter, are you hoping for a reposition with State with the 2016 POTUS?

      09/13/14 5:11 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      Figuring the boobs are insisting on doing something, i thought I’d at least throw out a useful idea. I’ll only go back to State as a Hillary political appointee to the new Republic of Sunnistan.

      09/13/14 5:56 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “Figuring the boobs are insisting on doing something…”

      Boobs. So you see an opening with Hillary?

      09/13/14 8:03 PM | Comment Link

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