Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

Iran and Syria: Peace in our time

FreedomHouse, (Flickr), (CC BY 2.0)

FreedomHouse, (Flickr), (CC BY 2.0)

Rumor has it that big things are going to happen between the United States and Iran next week at the United Nations General Assembly. Count me among the really excited for what promises to be a new world of openness and communication between the freshly minted Rouhani government and the slightly less fresh Obama administration. Because, after all, what could go wrong?

But I have a little confession: Something is gnawing away on the periphery of my diplomatic euphoria. I’m a little worried about the Syria precedent. What’s that, you ask? Isn’t that last week’s problem? So…I dunno…August? It’s true, we have a deal with the Russians. The Syrians are going to cough up a comprehensive list of their chemical weapons this week soonish. It’s true, Assad signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. And he is man who, once an international obligation is made, really sticks to it. I mean, look at how strictly Syria has adhered to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (What were the Israelis doing there in 2007 anyway?)

And then there are the president’s red lines. This is a man who takes his red lines seriously. The 14th time Assad crossed that red line and killed 1400 people – and 400 children, oh the children – Obama and his team were out there threatening an “incredibly small” retaliation. And he has a red line on Iran too. No nuclear weapons. None. Nada. Not gonna happen. I, for one, am totally convinced after this whole Putin/Obama/Assad peace that the president is 100% committed to ensuring Iran doesn’t cross his red lines. At least not more than once. Or twice.

Too much cynicism, you say? Too much snark? Sorry. But when more than a hundred thousand die, including thousands of children, and the leader of the free world celebrates that the war against them will continue – minus chemical attacks – we are left with few tools to underscore just how abysmal American foreign policy has become. Who takes the United States seriously? Why should the Iranians? Who can blame Rouhani for guessing that now is the time to sell Barack Obama an empty “deal” in return for lifting sanctions? No one has ever accused the Iranians of being fools. That, apparently, is a right we reserve only for ourselves.

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