‘Pursuit of quick victory behind Obama diplomacy failure in Iran’

Early into his presidency, Barack Obama reached out to Iran, offering America's hand of friendship. Now the two countries are closer to war than ever and Obama’s quick-result oriented policy is to blame, public policy scholar Trita Parsi told RT.

­Having interviewed lots of experts and politicians for his book "A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran", the President of National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi came to the conclusion that Obama was genuine in his diplomatic efforts but had very limited political space and political time.

“That political space was very quickly eaten away by several different factors,” he says. “There was pressure from Israel, there was pressure from Congress, there was pressure from Saudi Arabia, and even some of the Europeans were very concerned about the extent of the diplomacy that Obama was willing to engage in”.

“And then, there was of course the election scandal in Iran [2009] with the massive human rights abuses that followed,” he goes on, “that really did a lot to limit his political space. By the time he managed to get everyone to the table in October 2009, the policy had become a gamble on a single roll of the dice. It either had to work right away or not at all”.

Obama needed a quick result, Parsi added, as he had set the deadline of only one year to prove his critics in Washington that diplomacy could yield something. By the time he got to the table it was already October – ten months of his presidency having passed.

“He needed a quick victory – he did not get it,” Parsi explained. “And as a result, four week later the Obama administration essentially abandoned diplomacy and entered the sanctions track.”

As for the tension between Iran and Israel, Parsi says though the risk of an Israeli military strike is below 20 per cent, this year the timing for an assault is better than ever.   

“The reason for that,” he explains,” is that we have seen this pattern in the past, in which the Israelis have made a lot of threats about potentially attacking Iran and the primary purpose of that has been to push the US and the Europeans to impose more sanctions on Iran and to either utilize the American military option or, at a minimum, make sure that they do not agree to a compromise with the Iranians”.

But the reason it is different this time is the US elections, he said. If the Israelis did something the US military didn’t want them to do, the political backlash would be at a minimum because it is an election year.

On the one hand, the republican candidates are using aggressive rhetoric and have almost positioned themselves to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, Parsi says. But at the same time there has been a whole set of articles in major US newspapers questioning the very existence of an Israeli military option.

The US government, he therefore believes, is indirectly undermining the very belief that Israel can do this which is harming Israel’s military credibility.

Moreover, the US military and the Obama administration have said they believe Israel is behind the assassination of Iranian scientists in collaboration with the Iranian terrorist organization – and that is a blow to Israeli moral standing.

So, it is quite a tug-of-war between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government right now, Parsi concludes, in which the Obama administration feels Israel is trying to push them into war.

And they are pushing back in a manner which may have long-term consequences for US-Israeli relations.