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Obama and the Middle East

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
November 7, 2012
National Review

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Whatever President Obama's desires for the next few months, several Middle East crises now stare him in the face.

The greatest is Iran, which keeps on installing centrifuges and piling up enriched uranium while we chat, negotiate, chat about negotiating, and vote. The Iranians can easily play out the clock — unless we stop them. President Obama has repeatedly said he would do so, but that of course was during the campaign. Now what? Rumors about secret talks continue to circulate, and one Israeli newspaper has published the story that our — the United States — negotiator was Valerie Jarrett! What must even John Kerry and Hillary Clinton really think of that? The White House has yet to issue a denial of that story, as far as I am aware.

The easiest escape route for Obama is a deal, any deal, with Iran. He can then claim to have solved the nuclear problem or at least delayed it — but can also expect that skeptical Republicans will challenge terms that appear to allow the Iranian program to continue. Republicans, including Governor Romney, stuck to the terms of the U.N. Security Council resolutions: zero enrichment, export of all enriched uranium. An Obama deal that would allow enrichment would allow Iran to master the process fully, keep the Fordow and Natanz enrichment sites open, and introduce more efficient centrifuges. That's a bad deal Republicans should rally in opposition to it. It is quite possible that Ayatollah Khamenei will not agree to any deal with the Great Satan, leaving Obama with an even greater problem: let Iran move forward toward the bomb or actually use those "options on the table" that include military force. But when Obama hears from the Pentagon that any American strike must take weeks and be a small war, he may find that he wants to think again about the utility of an Israeli strike. Again, the most likely outcome is a bad deal — the Ayatollah willing. And the beginning of the bad deal would be bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. Watch for it.

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