On Tuesday, one day before the president touted passage of a surpassingly weak U.N. resolution and declared Iran yet more isolated, the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran gathered at a security summit in Istanbul "in a display of regional power that appeared to be calculated to test the United States," as the New York Times put it. I would add: And calculated to demonstrate the hollowness of U.S. claims of Iranian isolation, to flaunt Iran's growing ties with Russia and quasi-alliance with Turkey, a NATO member no less.Of course, isolation would be fine if it stopped Iran from its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons or to sponsor terrorism against international troops in Afghanistan or against Israel. But it hasn't worked that way. Iran continues, has even accelerated its work to achieve nuclear weapons. Nothing of Obama's policy towards Iran has accomplished anything.
Apart from the fact that isolation is hardly an end in itself and is pointless if, regardless, Iran rushes headlong to become a nuclear power, the very claim of Iran's increasing isolation is increasingly implausible. Just last month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted an ostentatious love fest in Tehran with the leaders of Turkey and Brazil. The three raised hands together and announced a uranium transfer deal that was designed to torpedo U.S. attempts to impose U.N. sanctions.
Six weeks ago, Iran was elected to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, a grotesque choice that mocked Obama's attempt to isolate and de-legitimize Iran in the very international institutions he treasures.
Increasing isolation? In the past year alone, Ahmadinejad has been welcomed in Kabul, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Caracas, Brasilia, La Paz, Senegal, Gambia and Uganda. Today, he is in China.
rom the beginning, the Obama strategy toward Iran and other rogue states had been to offer goodwill and concessions on the premise that this would lead to one of two outcomes: (a) the other side changes policy, or (b) if not, the world isolates the offending state and rallies around us -- now that we have demonstrated last-mile good intentions.Ahmadinejad has been publicly contemptuous of Obama's efforts. Just as he was of anything that Bush had done.
Hence, nearly a year and a half of peace overtures, negotiation, concessions, two New Year's messages to the Iranian people, a bit of groveling about U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup and a disgraceful silence when the regime's very stability was threatened by peaceful demonstrators.
Iran's response? Defiance, contempt and an acceleration of its nuclear program.
And the world's response? Did it rally behind us? The Russians and Chinese bargained furiously and successfully to hollow out the sanctions resolution. Turkey is openly choosing sides with the region's "strong horse" -- Iran and its clients (Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas) -- as it watches the United States flailingly try to placate Syria and appease Iran while it pressures Israel, neglects Lebanon and draws down its power in the region.
To say nothing of Brazil. Et tu, Lula?
This comes after 16 months of assiduously courting these powers with one conciliatory gesture after another: "resetting" relations with Russia, kowtowing to China, lavishing a two-day visit on Turkey highlighted by a speech to the Turkish parliament in Ankara, and elevating Brazil by supplanting the G-8 with the G-20. All this has been read as American weakness, evidence that Obama can be rolled.
But Obama doesn't want to face up to the failure of his policies so he does what he so often does. He assumes that a bit of rhetoric can disguise how little he's achieved. Unfortunately, rhetoric does not alter reality.