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October 27, 2011

Fareed Zakaria : You Know, We Are Being Way Too Hard On Iran

I honestly don't understand how some people come by a reputation as a serious thinker. Exhibit Number 1, Fareed Zakaria, who I like to think of as a younger and dumber Tom Friedman.

He knows exactly what the problem with our Iran policy is...Obama won't talk to them.

Early in the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama signaled that he was going to break with the Bush administration’s Manichean foreign policy. The topic was Iran. He explained repeatedly that the Bush policy of simply pressuring Iran was not working and that he would be willing to talk to the country’s leaders to find ways to reduce tensions and dangers. Two years into his presidency, Obama’s Iran policy looks a lot like George W. Bush’s — with some of the same problems that candidate Obama pointed out two years ago.

To be fair, the administration started out in 2009 by making overtures to Iran, which were rebuffed by its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Then it watched as the Green movement rattled the regime. But the result is that the administration has lapsed into a policy of pressure, pressure and more pressure.

The punitive tactics have paid off in some measure. Iran faces economic problems. But the tactics are also having a perverse impact on the country, as I saw during a brief visit to Tehran last week. The sanctions are stifling growth, though not as much as one might imagine because Iran has oil money and a large internal market. Their basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state — the opposite of what we should be trying to do in that country.

And then Zakaria gets silly.

Within the context of Iranian politics, Ahmadinejad is the pragmatist.

I really like how Zakaria just glosses over the fact that Obama's outreach, which included a very muted reaction to the slaughter of Iranians, was rebuffed. Clearly that rebuff called for more outreach!

Missing from the piece (aside from any sense of reality)? Any mention of Iran's role in supplying weapons used to kill Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Also left out is Iran's long standing commitment to terrorism including the recent plot to kill .

This is the problem, well one of them anyway, with people who advocate sanctions, never ending diplomacy and abhor even the threat of military force. Eventually they start to complain that the sanctions aren't effective but that making them any harsher won't work or will only hurt helpless people. Yet time and time again they push for this track.

It doesn't seem to occur to or bother Zakaria that by his own admission his preferred policy of "strategic engagement" has been tried and failed. Being a respected public intellectual liberal means never having to say you're sorry or even make any sense at all.

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posted by DrewM. at 05:52 PM

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