President Barack Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address and like the previous five other speeches, he largely dealt with domestic issues as the nation continues to struggle with a lingering recession, stagnant wage growth and deadlocked politics in Washington.
And like his other speeches, this one ran slightly under 7,000 words in length and in it, President Obama mentioned Iran a grand total of four times, which is comparable to how many times he spoke about Iran in 2014, 2013, and 2012. The only difference in this speech was a slightly longer emphasis on the need to avoid the additional levying of economic sanctions on Iran during the third and latest round of nuclear negotiations.
Similarly, Iran’s coterie of apologists and cheerleaders went on the offensive in advance of the speech as early copies were circulated amongst administration supporters. The National Iranian American Council notably and predictably lauded the President’s statement with a statement warning of the possibility of war breaking out with Iran should sanctions be levied.
Of course what NIAC fails to address is that this so-called last best hope for peace for Iran is actually the third go-around for this administration and doesn’t include efforts by every previous Presidential administration who had attempted to rein in Iran’s ruling mullahs.
While Iran has played revolving chairs with presidents in order to first get tough with the West with Ahmadinejad, it then tried a different tack with a so-called moderate face now under Hassan Rouhani. In both cases, the heavy hand of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues to sabotage any nuclear deal with his insistence that Iran retain not only its refining and enrichment capacity, but also its missile technology to potentially deliver a nuclear warhead.
NIAC’s hyperbole is indicative of the simple truth surrounding the issue of Iran; the American people simply do not trust the mullahs running Iran, least of all with nuclear weapons.
The fact that previous sanctions bills and the most recent one being proposed in Congress have been highly bipartisan with large numbers of Democrats joining with Republicans in an overwhelming show of solidarity on the issue demonstrates more powerfully than any speech that the President and NIAC are very much alone on this issue.
The funny thing is that the only people who are mentioning a possibility of war are only the NIAC and Iranian regime’s supporters, that have engaged in hyperventilating over the inevitable onset of war should sanctions come.
They neglect to mention that the same claims were made when previous sanctions were levied and in each case, war did not come. In fact the opposite occurred as Iran was forced to the bargaining table as its ability to export its brand of radicalized Islam became more difficult with fewer resources available. Couple that with crushing oil prices, and the timing is near perfect to forge a historic agreement with Iran to not only halt nuclear weapons development, but also seek improvements in Iran’s horrific human rights record, worsened under the “moderate” president Hassan Rouhani.
The U.S. and the West are being provided with an opportunity to use its significant leverage to move Iran forward back into the community of nations as a more democratic, pluralistic and free society than at any other time in recent memory. While the President focuses on nuclear talks, the window that has opened here is much more significant and should be taken advantage of immediately.
In short, the President needs to aim higher on behalf of the Iranian people, as well as the American people; a notion that the NIAC would be well served to adopt as well.
By Michael Tomlinson