Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hillary on Iran

At an event in Asia today, Secretary of State Clinton talked about the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea. With regard to Iran she said that the U.S. would,

consider extending a “defense umbrella” over the Middle East if Iran does not heed calls to halt its nuclear weapons program.
She later clarified that there was no change in the administration's policy of pretending that it can talk Iran out of its nuclear program.

Some have pounced on her remarks. Niles Gardiner, writing in the Telegraph, says she's "sending the wrong signal."

There is very little evidence to suggest the United States under Obama is actively seeking to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions through a credible threat of force. Nor has there been a sustained effort to significantly strengthen international sanctions against Tehran. The Clinton/Obama approach to the Iranian nuclear issue is flawed, weak and far too trusting in the intentions of a vicious adversary.
All true. But my take is different from Gardiner's. Clinton's statement, assuming it is backed by Obama, appears to be an acknowledgement of reality. The U.S. is not going to talk Iran out of its nuclear program, or get rid of it with international sanctions. And any sort of direct U.S. military action is highly unlikely and probably counterproductive. Barring an Israeli nuclear first strike, the complete collapse of the regime, or some other major unforeseen change, it appears that Iran will most likely achieve the nuclear capability it is working toward. A policy of deterrence is the only viable option. Maybe it's a bit too soon to be putting it forward publicly. I'm sure the administration wants to keep up its pretense that talks could solve the problem. But overall, Clinton seeming to understand that talk won't get the job done is a good thing. It seems to indicate that at least the administration isn't bent on deceiving itself about Iran.

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