Diplomacy

Washington Post Editor: Nuclear Deal Will Boost Iran’s Destabilizing Behavior

President Barack Obama’s decision to enact a policy of engagement with Iran, rather than opposing its regional ambitions outside of the nuclear deal, will likely lead to an escalation of Iranian aggression, Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Jackson Diehl wrote in an op-ed today.

Diehl contrasted Obama’s Iranian negotiation strategy with how President Ronald Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union in the mid-1980’s.

Reagan’s insight was that it was possible to strike deals with Moscow on nuclear arms while simultaneously waging an uncompromising Cold War. Obama’s ideology, which he has applied to Cuba and Burma as well as Iran, is that the United States should seek not to defeat its adversaries, but to coax them into more cooperative behavior.

Consequently, Obama has strongly resisted Reagan’s methods. He has starved Syrian rebel forces of the arms and training they seek to defeat Iran’s closest ally. He declined to speak up for Iran’s domestic opposition even when it staged a street rebellion against the regime in 2009. He has never attempted to secure Iranian compliance with human rights norms, as did Cold War treaties with the Soviet Union. At his news conference last Wednesday, he coldly described the possibility of a strengthened Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army in Syria and Lebanon, as an acceptable tradeoff for the nuclear deal.

Diehl called Reagan’s arms control treaty “a modest success” and noted that Reagan’s continued opposition to the Soviet Union on other fronts greatly contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was “an epochal achievement.”

In contrast, Diehl wrote, “Obama may be able to point, 15 years from now, to an Iran that remains non-nuclear. But the most likely effect of his engagement policy is not the implosion of the Islamic republic, but its perpetuation.”

Diehl argued that Obama is “more interested in tactical geopolitical benefits” than in pushing Iran to change its behavior on human rights or exporting terrorism.

A consensus has emerged among experts in recent months—including Foreign Policy editor David Rothkopf, former State Department official Aaron David Miller, Washington Institute of Near East Policy fellows Mehdi Khalaji, Soner Cagaptay and James Jeffrey, and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz—that the nuclear deal will have the effect of further destabilizing the Middle East.

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