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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

America's National Insecurity Adviser

Death by 1,000 Papercuts gets credit for the nice photoshop at the top of this post.

On the morning after he was slammed for this Iran policy by every candidate at the Republican Presidential debate, President Obama sent his national security adviser, Tom Donilon, out to tell everyone how effective his Iran policy really is.
National security adviser Tom Donilon defended Obama’s Iran policy in a wide-ranging speech following criticism by Republican presidential contenders that the administration had not done enough to thwart Tehran's nuclear advances.

His remarks may also serve as an appeal to Israel for more time to let Washington’s strategy work. There has been growing speculation about an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites since a U.N. nuclear watchdog accused Tehran this month of covert atomic weapons work.

“Iran today is fundamentally weaker, more isolated, more vulnerable and badly discredited than ever,” Donilon said at the Brookings Institution think tank a day after the United States, Britain and Canada slapped new sanctions on Iran's energy and financial sectors, according to Reuters.

He said that after Iran rejected the Obama’s early diplomatic outreach and continued defying the international community, the United States had worked to ratchet up sanctions, strengthen military ties with Tehran's neighbors and increase it isolation.

“The effect of these sanctions has been clear,” Donilon said. “Coupled with mistakes and difficulties in Iran, they have slowed Iran's nuclear efforts ... Not only is it harder for Iran to proceed, it is more expensive.”

Despite those claims, Obama - like predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton - has been unable to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program or come clean on its developments.

Analysts said they did not believe the latest punitive steps would be any more effective in dissuading Iran from pursuing its nuclear plans, which Washington and its allies say is a cover for seeking nuclear arms.

Though Iran has acknowledged some economic damage, it dismissed the new sanctions, saying they would only boost popular support for a nuclear program it insists is solely for peaceful purposes.

The range of unilateral steps planned by Western powers reflects the difficulty of persuading Russia and China not to veto further sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.

While the West has been reluctant to deal too harshly with one of the world’s biggest oil producers because of the risk to world markets, Donilon said: “We are certainly not ruling out additional steps against Iran’s banking sector, including the central bank.”

He said Washington remained resolute. “Put simply, the Iranian regime has not yet fundamentally altered its behavior, but we have succeeded in slowing its nuclear program,” he said.

“The international community has the time, space and means to affect the calculus of Iran's leaders, who must know that they cannot evade or avoid the choice we have laid before them,” Donilon said.

Donilon said that Iran has failed to shape Iraq into a “client state” in its own image and will lose one of its few remaining allies as “inevitable” change comes to Syria.
There's more too - read the whole thing.

A few comments. First, it's amusing to see Obama trying to take credit for whatever modicum of effectiveness the sanctions against Iran have had when he opposed them and has refused to enforce them.

Second, doesn't have a whole lot of time to give sanctions to work. Within a year, Iran's entire enrichment process will be in reinforced underground bunkers. That's a game changer. If Obama really wants to see if sanctions can be effective in stopping Iran, he has to go all out NOW. That means moving NOW against Iran's central bank and against its oil exports no matter what that does to the price of oil. Unless Obama is willing to do that, the only hope for stopping Iran is military action, and given Obama's propensity for 'leading from behind' that military mission will probably fall on Israel.

Third, the game isn't over in Iraq or Syria. A successor Syrian regime could well befriend Iran, and it seems likely that the Iraqi government - for whom thousands of American lives and billions of American dollars were lost - will also end up in Iran's court.

What could go wrong?

Read the whole thing.

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