Jeffrey Herf: Why Won’t Obama Speak Frankly About Iran?





Jeffrey Herf is a professor of history at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author, most recently, of Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.

The world is nearing the point where it is going to have to make some difficult decisions about how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon—among them, a decision about whether to use military force. Given Iran’s deep hostility to the United States and Israel, as well as its history of sponsoring terrorism, the importance of denying Iran a nuclear weapon cannot be overstated.

But, while President Obama says he believes Iran must be denied the bomb, his rhetoric on the subject has been curiously circumscribed. He has not made a major speech explaining to the American and global public why an Iranian nuclear bomb would be a threat to the United States or to the countries of the Middle East. He has not used his bully pulpit to detail the content of Iran’s genocidal threats to Israel. He has not explained why an Iranian bomb would doom his hopes for preventing further proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries. Even as he says things like “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” he has not explained to the country why a policy of containment and deterrence—which worked in the case of the Soviet Union—is deeply problematic in the case of Iran....

First, it is not true that the world “stands as one” regarding stopping Iran’s progress towards the bomb. For instance, while China supports some form of economic sanctions, it also continues to buy a great deal of oil from the country. So while the world may “stand as one” in wishing that Iran does not get the bomb, there is no unified position on how to translate this wish into reality....



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