COMMENTARY | In an analysis of why the Obama administration seems to be following a policy of appeasement toward Iran, Strafor’s Robert Kaplan suggests that the new president of that country, Hassan Rouhani, is regarded as a reformist who can be dealt with.
In other words, the administration is betting that Rouhani is a kind of Iranian Gorbachev. Indeed Michael Barone offers another analogy, that of Nixon and Kissinger seeking an opening with China in the early 1970s. But another historical analogy comes to mind, that of Neville Chamberlain and Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s.
Kaplan suggests that the Obama administration is reacting to American exhaustion over interventions in the Middle East. It is attempting to avoid at all costs a military strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which it regards as having an uncertain result. The policy also fits neatly into Obama’s perception of the United States as having been too willing to throw its weight around. The immense egos of both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, enraptured by the idea of a diplomatic coup with an American enemy, must come into play as well.
There are a number of reasons why this policy is destined to fail.
First, whether Rouhani is a reformer or just a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the real political power in Iran resides with the firmly anti-American spiritual leader the Ayatollah Khamenei. Rouhani is just a front man.
Second, China had every reason to be receptive to an American overture because of the threat posed to that country by the Soviet Union. China and the USSR came close to war in 1969. Iran, on the other hand, threatens two American allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Finally, the consequences of failure, in which Iran gets the Bomb anyway, are incalculable. Iran is not China is another sense. China, like the Soviet Union, was homicidal but not suicidal. Iran is dominated by a political/religious class that might accept a nuclear war in the Middle East that would destroy the country if it brings about a kind of Shia Muslim version of the Book of Revelations, the advent of the “hidden Imam” and the establishment of a universal caliphate.