Iran is a case in point: Wishing to show flexibility, Obama put Iran’s demand for uranium enrichment on the table, effectively reversing three unanimous or near unanimous Security Council resolutions reaffirming the illegality of the Islamic Republic’s program. Tehran promptly rejected Obama’s deal but claimed victory because Obama had inadvertently affirmed Tehran’s right to enrichment. ~Anna Borshchevskaya

This is why our debate on Iran policy is so poor. Iran policy hawks falsely claim that Iran does not have a guaranteed right to enrichment under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the rest of us are supposed to pretend that these people have some credibility discussing these matters. In fact, the NPT requires that Iran follow IAEA guidelines while it is enriching uranium. The resolutions in question have ordered suspension of enrichment on account of those technical violations. They do not claim that Iran’s program is itself illegal, nor do they claim that Iran does not have a right to enrichment, but that Iran has violated certain safeguards. In other words, it is no great concession to accept that Iran has a right to enrichment.

The relevant issue as far as the administration has been concerned is whether Iran will abuse that right to build nuclear weapons. To insist that Iran should not even have the right to enrichment for peaceful purposes is not only to be extremely unreasonable, but it also requires ignoring what the NPT permits. Little wonder that the Iranian government has threatened to leave the confines of the NPT. Iran sees that states that are not bound by the treaty can acquire quite large nuclear arsenals and proliferate as much as they like, and it also sees that there is an excessive opposition even to Iran’s right to enrichment, so it may not be much longer before Iran takes the perfectly predictable and self-interested step of abandoning the treaty and thereby circumventing the only legal framework there is to compel Iranian compliance.

The rest of Borshchevskaya’s article isn’t much better. She stresses the importance of the Lebanese elections earlier this year, which basically endorsed the status quo of a closely divided country in which the March 8 forces actually represented a majority of Lebanese voters. Jumblatt’s party was part of the winning March 14 coalition, and almost immediately he was talking about bringing Hizbullah in as part of a unity government. The triumphant narrative reported in the Western press of some sort of electoral “victory” over Hizbullah was simply wrong. Hizbullah has become increasingly influential in Lebanese politics, especially since the war in 2006, and Suleiman is in no more position to oppose this than were his predecessors. Suleiman became president because he was an acceptable unity candidate, and he has the difficult task of preventing the country from slipping back into civil war. Borshchevskaya would have the administration ignore the political and military realities of Lebanon, pretend that the March 14 forces represent a majority view of Lebanese and believe that the only thing keeping them down is Syrian influence. As it is, the administration seems to be trying to help the Lebanese president keep his country from descending into renewed civil strife, and somehow this is counted as a “failure” of Obama’s foreign policy.