Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Obama Iran Policy Survives AIPAC Intact

President Obama's comments today cautioning against military action on Iran demonstrate the extent to which the anti-Iran rhetoric at AIPAC over the past few days has been rhetoric without much real policy leverage.  The Obama administration has also expressed support for a new round of talks between Iran and world powers.

Both these actions are are consistent with Obama's careful speech to AIPAC on Sunday morning, in which he expressed a willingness to use force but a preference to use diplomatic pressure.  While Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell urged drawing red lines and used the term "overwhelming force" multiple times in his speech at last night's gala, Obama rightly recognizes the dangers of military intervention in Iran.  In a swipe at McConnell, Obama said today that "Those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities.  They are not Commander in Chief."

But while intended as a political swipe, this point is also an objective statement of fact.  The Obama administration will continue to resist attempts to pressure it into over-committing on Iran, and the choice to strike or not is one which will be made in the executive branch.  That the Obama administration is resisting this over-committment is not weak.  It is smart policy making about an incredibly complex foreign policy dilemma.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has no problem with the administration's position, and said so before 14,000 Israel supporters last night.  Neither does President Peres, who also said so before the same crowd.  It is puzzling that a small contingent of conservative Americans is drawing a harder line than the leaders of the State of Israel on an issue of American and Israeli security.

A post on this blog yesterday opined that despite AIPAC's attempts to define clear talking points on Iran, the complexity of the situation will dilute the efficacy of these efforts.  Today's news confirms that the administration continues to hold an appreciation for the complexity of the Iran issue and the reticence of the American public to commit to another war in the Middle East.  While a rhetorical firestorm on Iran rages, the administration has been successful at staying out of the fray.