What exactly is President Barack Obama prepared to do in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? And just how committed is the American president to curtailing the Islamic Republic's nuclear enrichment efforts? Taken together, these questions represent one of the most important and most consequential unknowns in the realms of diplomacy, foreign policy, and geostrategic planning today. It is no exaggeration to say the course of history will be shaped by what lies behind the veil that is hiding Obama's true plans for Iran.
Bit by bit, an image of the Obama administration's long-term views on how to deal with the Iran problem is gradually surfacing, as administration officials reveal the thinking taking place at the highest levels of Washington policymaking. What emerges is the troubling picture of an Iran policy that appears confused and not altogether coherent, amid hints that what we hear in public from the president is not wholly consistent with the policies of his administration.
Obama came to office proposing a radically different approach to Iran from that of his predecessor. Washington would seek to engage Tehran in order to respectfully -- if firmly -- persuade Iranian leaders to stop enriching uranium in violation of the country's international commitments. That velvety foreign policy touch marked a sharp contrast from the abrasive style of the Bush White House. While the tactics would change, however, the ultimate goal of the policy presumably remained unchanged. Just as it had under Bush, America under Obama would refuse to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.