When you make foreign policy in Hyde Park salons you make it in a vacuum of ignorance. Take, for example, Barack Obama's Iran policy. Today, European leaders savage it Obama's Iran policy in the Washington Post. The problem is simple: Obama's promises to meet with Iran's leaders are at odds with a well-coordinated strategy with our European allies and the United Nations. And, yet again, our allies object. Read on after the jump.
European officials are increasingly concerned that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign pledge to begin direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program without preconditions could potentially rupture U.S. relations with key European allies early in a potential Obama administration.
The U.N. Security Council has passed four resolutions demanding that Iran stop enriching uranium, each time highlighting the offer of financial and diplomatic incentives from a European-led coalition if Tehran suspends enrichment, a route to producing fuel for nuclear weapons. But Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said he would make such suspension a topic for discussion with Iran, rather than a precondition for any negotiations to take place.
Naive Obamaphiles will be outraged, but this is hardly the first time that we have heard this. The British Foreign Secretary said the same thing a month ago when he met Obama face-to-face. He found Obama so alarming that he was willing to be quoted:
We know Obama wants to engage more, but we don’t know what route he will take or what he means by ‘no pre-conditions’. It has not unravelled yet and, when it does, we will be able to see where it converges or conflicts with what we’re doing.
While European political leaders may be unwilling to be quoted on the record, think tankers seem quite willing:
"Dropping a unanimous Security Council condition would simply be interpreted by Iran and America's allies as unconditional surrender, and America's friends would view this as confirmation of America's basic unreliability," said François Heisbourg, a Paris-based military analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "A hell of a way to start a presidential term."
Even an Obama campaign official recognizes that the problem with Obama's policy is "the lies and dissembling by the Iranians":
Still, Philip H. Gordon, a Europe expert at the Brookings Institution who has advised the Obama campaign, acknowledged that European officials "are uncomfortable with giving up the precondition of uranium enrichment right now." Gordon, who emphasized he was not speaking for the campaign, said the dynamic has changed in recent years, so that "after all the lies and dissembling by the Iranians, the European negotiators have become pretty hard-line" on Iran.
In John McCain, we have perhaps the most genuinely internationalist candidate for President since Eisenhower who has travelled to multiple foreign countries during his campaign and plans more. Or we can have a naive, protectionist who won't meet our troops and attack's our allies interests, especially on trade, where the EU's trade commissioner has also attacked Obama.
Not too hard a choice.