ANALYSIS: Who wants to stop Iran?
Bush may not be as naive as Obama, but U.S. policy under his watch has failed on the Iranian issue.
Idaho senator William Borah didn't live to see the end of World War II. He died in 1940, before the U.S. had even joined the Allies and gotten involved in the war. Borah was an isolationist who wanted nothing more than American withdrawal from world affairs. And it is his words that Bush quoted Thursday in Jerusalem: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided."
Bush did not waver Thursday from the policies that have guided his administration since September 11, 2001. His position on Iran is longstanding. But on Thursday, when he again spoke of the naivete of those who believe dialogue can block Iran's nuclear program, it blipped on America's political radar. Barack Obama's campaign was quick to respond, calling it "extraordinary politicization of foreign policy." If those who want to talk to Iran are like those who wanted to talk to Hitler - then Obama is Neville Chamberlain or Senator Borah.
But Bush should be measured by the same yardstick. Meetings will not stop Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but neither will speeches in Knesset.
Bush may not be as naive as Obama, but U.S. foreign policy under his leadership has failed time after time on the Iranian issue. International sanctions are too skimpy to mount any real pressure against Iran's uranium enrichment program, and Tehran is gaining.
One knowledgeable observer was using this baseball metaphor yesterday. The Iranians have players waiting on all three bases. Hamas on first, Syria on second and Hezbollah on third. All they need now is the grand slam homerun - a nuclear bomb in the hands of Iran that will send them running around the bases for home.
Bush often says he learned a thing or two from his years as the owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team: "I developed a thick skin against criticism. I learned to ignore minor setbacks and focus on the long haul." But in the case of Iran, the long haul is creeping ever closer, and it appears Bush plans to leave the problem for his successor.
Earlier this week, he gave the Israeli press a rather complicated answer regarding what he hopes to accomplish during his term. "I think what definitely will be done is a structure on how to deal with this, to try to resolve this diplomatically. In other words, sanctions, pressures, financial sanctions; a history of pressure that will serve as a framework to make sure other countries are involved."
And here is what he said Thursday: For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. And he added: "America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions." Bush's declarations could be seen as a calming expression of support: The U.S. president clearly does not favor a nuclear Iran. But one can also wonder about the wording he chose in this speech. Does relying on what the "world" does - or standing with Israel, which might take action itself - mean that America does not plan to be the one to stop Iran?
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