With the US midterm elections behind us, and with the Democrats having lost control of the House of Representatives, the question on many lips is: What’s going to happen to Obama's Iran strategy?
The Republican Party is understandably happy with its November 2 gains, but if it’s truly concerned about the dangers of a nuclear Iran, it needs to help, not hinder, Barack Obama’s approach toward the country. The fact is that whatever gripes Republicans may have about Obama’s domestic policies, his diplomatic drive and consensus building in the international community has done considerable damage to the Iranian regime's global standing, as well as its business interests. Indeed, after only two years in office, Obama has done more to undermine the regime of Ali Khamenei over the course of two years than George W. Bush did in eight.
Of course there’s more than just a diplomatic dimension to this—many Republicans, unsatisfied with UN resolutions, are itching to take a tougher line on Iran, including through the use of military force.
But members of the GOP would do well to remember that much like on the question of sanctions, Obama has also done more than Bush in this regard, too. How? Obama's Nuclear Posture Review, which was issued in April, implicitly threatened Iran not just with conventional weapons, but also nuclear ones. According to Obama's nuclear doctrine, the United States ‘will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treatyand in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.’
The Syrians, despite their differences with the IAEA, can sleep easy at night. But the leaders of Iran can not.
The effective singling out of Iran is an implied threat that the regime takes extremely seriously. What enrages it all the more is that the rest of the world has remained largely silent about the fact that Obama went out of his way to effectively exclude Iran from the list of countries that were not potentially in US nuclear crosshairs. This is largely because Obama has such credibility in the international community. If Bush had revised the US nuclear doctrine in this way, the criticism from non-aligned countries would have been much harder to dismiss.
So what should the Republicans do now?
First and foremost, they shouldn’t try to undermine Obama's efforts at improving relations with Moscow. Russia is a key player on the Iran issue, and through patient diplomacy Obama has over the past two years managed to gradually coax Russia away from the Iran camp—to the point where Ahmadinejad, who welcomed Vladimir Putin with open arms in 2007, is now openly chastising Russia for refusing to sell the S-300 long-range missile system to Tehran. This decision is a major setback for the Islamic Republic, but getting here took significant energy on the part of the Obama administration to persuade Moscow that cooperating with the United States is a win-win situation.