President Barack Obama’s gradually evolving message on Iran belatedly included criticism of the regime’s repression and human rights abuses. His Administration, however, continues to cling to wishful thinking about the possibility of negotiating a sustainable agreement with Iran’s ruling regime.
Unfortunately, this effort is doomed to fail because hostility to the United States, which the regime considers to be the “Great Satan,” is an ideological cornerstone of the Islamic Republic. The chances of negotiating an acceptable resolution of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, which were minimal to begin with, have now been considerably reduced.
In the long run, a free Iran is the best hope for peace and security in the volatile Middle East. The Obama Administration should therefore not turn its back on the Iranian opposition in a vain effort to strike a deal with the regime. This would undermine not only American national interests but also American ideals. In the words of one Iranian dissident: “Obama claims to be like President Lincoln. Then he should uphold the principles of Lincoln.”
The Administration should seek to rally international support for increased sanctions on Iran’s renegade regime. European allies, in particular, could do a lot more to pressure Tehran to halt its repression of its own citizens and freeze its nuclear program. The Obama Administration should press European and other allies to impose the same level of economic and travel sanctions that the United States has imposed on Iran.
If these sanctions do not dissuade Tehran from continuing on its present path, then Washington must prepare for a more dangerous Iran. It should invest in missile defenses against Iran’s growing ballistic missile force and deploy missile defenses to help protect its allies from that threat. The United States should mobilize an international coalition to contain and deter Iran while imposing economic, political, diplomatic, and possibly military costs on the regime for flouting its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The bottom line is that Obama Administration officials must abandon wishful thinking and deal with Iran as it is, not as how they would like it to be.