IDEA Voices: Obama is cautious on Iran, not weak


By Audrey Denis

Over the last three years, Iran has remained a major foreign policy concern for the Obama Administration, specifically concerning its government’s nuclear development program. Through a series of negotiations and sanctions, US policy has been one of containment. With the 2012 elections approaching, the candidates’ proposed strategies towards Iran have important implications for the future of United States security.

Mitt Romney has not been hesitant to discuss his willingness to resort to military action against Iran. He says, “I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world.”

Perhaps Romney is trying to take advantage of Americans’ concern over a nuclear Iran with a strong stance. This statement, however, showcases a certain aggression which, if Mitt Romney did in fact become president could reverse the progress that has been made in regards to Iran.

When President Obama assumed office the world was significantly divided over how to prevent Iranian nuclear development. The United Nations passed a new round of sanctions in 2010, in July 2012 the EU placed a ban on importing, purchasing and transporting Iranian oil and the US has followed suit. While sanctions are not a golden bullet and certainly take time to effectively create change, recent developments indicate a more unified effort in the world community to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear development.

President Obama has emphasized the importance of global cooperation and leaving military intervention as an absolute last resort. Romney’s statement indicates that war is not his last option as he provides an ultimatum that the US will go to war to prevent a nuclear Iran; this is perhaps not the wisest course of action. After the United States’ unilateral action in Iraq the world is wary of an aggressive US.

Romney’s hardline rhetoric on Iran risks alienating the rest of the international community. If the United States threatens war to prevent Iran’s nuclear development, the issue may be turned into those who support and disagree with the US, versus maintaining the (at least somewhat)unified international pressure on Iran that has been developing over the past few years. China and Russia have taken numerous negotiations to come on board with sanctions and aggressive United States rhetoric risks shattering the fragile progress that has been made.

In response to Republican criticism that Obama would not take military action against Iran, the President defends his strategy: “Look, if people want to say about me that I have a profound preference for peace over war, that every time I order young men and women into a combat theater and then see the consequences on some of them, if they're lucky enough to come back, that this weighs on me—I make no apologies for that.” 

President Obama’s stance is not weak, but cautious.

The United States has a lot to lose in regards to international credibility and global cooperation; the situation in Iran is much more complicated than military ultimatums. Both Governor Romney and President Obama need to tread carefully as Iran remains a major issue during the campaign and their proposed policies have significant implications for US security and international clout.

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