By Gareth Porter
If and when the Iran nuclear agreement gets through Congress, many people in Washington hope that President Barack Obama will articulate a more realistic strategy for the Middle East than what we have heard from his administration in the past. But Obama has evidently decided this is not the time to articulate anything about the region’s future that he does not see as helping to sell the agreement on Capitol Hill. The real question is whether there is a clear idea waiting to be made public when the timing is right.
If there was ever an appropriate moment for Obama to articulate an overarching post-agreement policy vision that integrated the Iran nuclear agreement into a broader strategy for dealing with a Middle East at war, it was his speech at American University on Aug. 5. The time and place for the speech were chosen in explicit acknowledgement of President John F. Kennedy’s speech at that same university 52 years earlier.
In his speech, JFK offered a vision of a transformation of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union and the Cold War from one of confrontation to negotiations. But instead of using that occasion to explain how U.S. diplomacy might play a transformational role in the Middle East, Obama limited the speech to defending the Vienna agreement in the narrowest terms.
Three days later, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria of CNN, Obama did deal with broader regional problems, but his only firm argument was a response to the attacks on the Vienna agreement for allegedly enabling Iran to increase its assistance to regional allies. He conceded that Iran would be able to continue…