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Obama’s Iran Policy Offers the Bush Policies to Iran–in Person

20 December 2008 No Comment

Behind the jubilation of the victorious Obama-Biden White House win, the reality of governing during these precarious times is now at hand. Although President–elect Barack Obama declined to answer a question about Iran at his first press conference, citing the one President at-a-time policy; using the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Plan’s Iraq policy as an indicator, there is reason for concern.

The Obama-Biden definition of “change” is to bring the unsuccessful Bush polices and pre-condition demands with them to Iran. Also, their policy fails to address Iran’s October pre-conditions for talks with America.

Obama was sharply criticized on the campaign trail when he agreed to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea—with no preconditions as being naïve. Hillary Clinton declined to meet directly with dictators because she didn’t “want to be used for propaganda purposes.” She didn’t “want to make a situation even worse,” instead she would use “high-level presidential envoys to test the waters.” Clinton was derided by Obama’s campaign and accused of maintaining the failed Bush policies which includes not engaging in direct talks with foes.

Now that Obama is the President-elect, he is holding firm to his no preconditions promise to Iran—but he’s taking with him all the other Bush Iran policies. Policies criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for not effectively curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

According to the Obama-Biden “diplomacy policy” presented in their Official U.S. Presidential Transition plan, “Obama supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama and Biden will offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation.” (italics mine)

Sound familiar? It should because the in-person choices the incoming Obama-Biden administration are offering Iran are the Bush policies, along with Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany’s called the dual-track strategy, which includes tightening sanctions on Iran’s regime while offering incentives if Iran suspends its enrichment activities. It’s a failed policy borrowed from the UN Security Council, that despite three resolutions imposing sanctions against Iran, coupled with an international campaign to put financial pressure on Iran, has so far not stopped or deterred Tehran from developing its nuclear program.

The only difference with the Obama-Biden plan is that Bush did not sit face-to face with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and be used as a propaganda tool to offer him the same ineffective choices that President-elect Obama plans to offer him in the future.
With all the talk of pre-conditions versus no pre-conditions, in October, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Vice President for Media Affairs Mehdi Kalhor said that Iran has set two preconditions of their own. First, until U.S. forces leave the Middle East and cease its support for the “Zionist regime”—talks between Iran and U.S. is off the agenda. Secondly, “Iran is not obliged to reestablish ties with the U.S., Kalhor said, “If they take our advise, grounds for such talks would be well prepared… It is stupidity to hold talks without any change in U.S. attitude.” The Obama-Biden plan has no plan to counter Iran’s pre-conditions.

Then on November 7, Ahmadinejad, backed by Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme Leader who has the final word in domestic and foreign polices, sent a congratulatory letter to President-elect Obama. Ahmadinejad advised Obama about Iran’s expectation in the Middle East is that the unjust actions of the past six decades will give way to a policy encouraging full rights for all nations, especially the oppressed nations of “Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan,” clearly referring to his quest to see the 60-year old Israel wiped off the map. Citing his hectic schedule, Obama has not yet responded to Ahmadinejad’s letter but claimed on the campaign trail that he was a friend to Israel.

It’s worth noting, in 2007, Vice President-elect Joe Biden called “Tehran’s favorite Senator” by his critics, voted against a measure that declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. The New Republic, reported, one month after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Biden in a meeting with staffers on his Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested that Washington show the Arab world that the U.S. was not bent on its destruction. “Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran,” Biden said, to the shock of his staffers, either forgetting or ignoring that Iran declared war on the U.S. over 25-years ago, has U.S. blood on their hands, and recently was accused of arming Shiites militias in Iraq.

In a post 9/11 world with America fighting two wars there isn’t much room for foreign policy missteps or signs of weakness, whether diplomatically or militarily. The reality of a nuclear-Iran is near. If Obama is sincere that a nuclear Iran is not acceptable then the Obama-Biden idea of tough diplomacy, as is, will not stop Iran’s nuclear program—to Iran’s pleasure.

Update: Since this article was filed, the Obama-Biden Official Presidential Transition website has removed the agenda section. That includes the foreign policy page where their Iran policy was located. CFP saved it here.

As you can see, among the troubling policy plans it was noticeably a partisan attack on President Bush. That may have worked well for President-elect Obama on the campaign trail but attacking Bush will not secure America’s national interests. According the Washington Times, Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “We are currently retooling the Web site.”