Obama is keeping all his options open by assembling the best possible team to negotiate with Iran or to convince the world that war is sadly necessary, according to Hussein Ibish.
The constellation of new national security/foreign policy appointees coalescing around President Barack Obama for his second term bears all the hallmarks of an overriding priority issue: Iran. Obama has assembled a team perfectly positioned to present itself to Iran as offering the best deal possible. Failing that, it is also the ideal group to convince the American public that—should negotiations fail and the administration decide to take some form of military action—these are precisely the policymakers who can be relied upon to have done so only as a last resort and because there are no other options.
…Whatever the final makeup of his new national security team—which will certainly eventually have to include some women such as Susan Rice or Michele Flournoy—it will be based around the Kerry/Hagel/Brennan nexus. The message to Tehran is clear: Whatever you are offered by this group is the best deal you’re likely to get.
…But the administration remains committed to the broadest outlines of its continuously repeated position that Iran will not be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. Recently Hagel has reportedly joined Obama in reiterating that the military option is by no means off the table. And the message to both Tel Aviv and Tehran is that it isn’t Israel that’s going to be taking action if necessary, it will be the United States.
Should it come to that—and given the administration’s stated positions this is an entirely plausible scenario—the American people and the rest of the world will then be told that military action against Iran is being undertaken by the last group of people who would do so recklessly or avoidably. They are presented as informed and sophisticated realists, non-interventionists, battle-weary war skeptics and advocates of diplomacy, agreements and alliances. In the American political spectrum they have been packaged and marketed as, in effect, the “anti-neoconservatives.” As New York Times columnist Nick Kristof anticipated the argument, “How refreshing to imagine decisions about war made by brave doves rather than by chicken hawks.” Obama’s new defense/foreign policy team is an Iran cabinet, assembled to decide and act on war or peace over the nuclear file. Tehran should understand this as both the unparalleled opportunity and significant threat that it is.
Good stuff. Read the whole thing.