On Iran, Bush May Talk Tough, But the Results Are Lacking

Shmuel Rosner, chief Washington correspondent for Israel’s leading newspaper Ha’aretz, has been a critical observer of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. But in an analysis of Bush’s Iran comments in Israel this past week, he points out that while Bush has talked tough on Iran, his Iran policy has thus far been a failure:

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.

The proof is in the pudding. While some worry over the “signs” that the administration plans to strike Iran before it leaves office, other, arguably closer observers such as Rosner seem to detect something different: that the rhetoric vs. results gap regarding Iran from the Bush administration remains far apart. As Rosner writes:

Earlier this week, [Bush] 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.”

In other words, as recently departed US undersecretary of state for political affairs Nick Burns, who handled the US’s Iran portfolio, said in February, Iran’s nuclear issue most likely will not be resolved by the time Bush leaves office. Which arguably may not be a failure at all, but a sign of restraint, or a recognition of constraints, as well as wiser counsel, in conflict with some of the president’s deepest inclinations.