What Obama's Iran Plan Has Wrought

Obama's approach has only emboldened the Islamic Republic.

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Somewhere in the South Atlantic, the vanguard of the Iranian Navy is making its way toward U.S. territorial waters. What it is going to do once it gets there is, at this moment, anybody’s guess, but the odds are that, whatever is planned, it’s not good.

The “fleet,” the Associated Press reported, consists of a destroyer and a supply ship carrying helicopters. At first blush that doesn’t sound like much of a threat. But if these ships are carrying chemical or biological weapons or a nuclear device that could be used to trigger an “EMP” – an electro-magnetic pulse capable of frying communication systems, computer circuitry and the electric grid in an areas hundreds of miles in diameter – then it’s a whole new ball game.

Sadly, the United States is unprepared to respond to any provocation the Iranian fleet might undertake because President Barack Obama has not been serious about America’s role in global affairs and the need to protect the homeland. From start to the current point he has treated Iran as a prize to be won, as an opportunity to earn international plaudits for peacemaking and, therefore, a vote getter rather than the serious threat to global security it is.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Iran.]

When he first started running for president Obama spoke openly of his willingness to open negotiations with now-former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who among other things promised to wipe Israel, America’s closest ally in the region if not the entire world, off the map – without any “preconditions.”

As soon as the costs of that position became clear, as soon as some of the same people who looked favorably on his bid for the nation’s highest office began to register their discomfort with the idea it was dropped, but probably not forgotten.

Iran has a new president and the Obama Administration – in the person of Secretary of State John Kerry – has been active in multilateral talks trying to get the regime in Tehran to agree to forego its efforts to enrich uranium and become a nuclear power.

The talks produced an agreement which, while it did not quite give away the entire store, got for the Iranians more than they had to give up. In fact, it’s not at all clear that it will cause them to curtail their nuclear program in any meaningful way. The United States is committed to enforcing international sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, Obama said at a news conference with French President Francois Hollande this week, but how it will do so is unclear. Every step the current administration has taken up to this point seems only to have increased Iran’s intention to challenge U.S. resolve.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Middle East.]

America demonstrated weakness by showing it was more interested in getting an agreement, any agreement, than in its terms. Thus emboldened, Iran has now sent a part of its navy toward the United States, which creates a potentially very dangerous situation.

The ships cannot be stopped and searched even though they probably should be. After all, what is the purpose of sending them halfway around the world? Just to prove it can be done, or does this tiny “flotilla” plan to engage in mischief? Is it on a military mission, carrying weapons of mass destruction it may intend to deploy? Is the plan to use it to provoke a confrontation with the United States and make America look like a bully in the eyes of the rest of the Muslim world? No one except a few people in Iran and onboard those ships know – and they’re not telling. No one knows what the smart move is and every responsible option carries with it a considerable risk.

Over the course of the 20th century the United States was drawn into more than one crisis that led to far too many Americans being killed or wounded on the field of battle by an event that seemed, at the time, insignificant. The risk that Iranian naval vessels travelling from the Middle East to a point near U.S. maritime waters could be another is one we should never have been forced to entertain. That it came to pass is only because the current White House has been far too weak in its dealings with Tehran and they know it.