Hillel Fradkin and Lewis Libby’s description of Iran policy over the last three years bears almost no resemblance to reality:
Undeterred, Obama chased the Iranians to enter talks, then conceded critical points in advance and raised American hopes, only to find that the Iranians were somehow, mystifyingly to him and his diplomats, no closer to meaningful change.
This depiction of Obama as obsessed with engaging Iran has a great many flaws. Obama pushed for an additional round of U.N. sanctions on Iran. He imposed additional unilateral sanctions, and he encouraged the Europeans to impose their embargo on Iranian energy imports. When there was a possible fuel-swap deal negotiated by Turkey and Brazil in 2010, he swatted it down, and only later repaired some of the damage done to U.S. relations with those countries. There was a very brief gesture at engagement early in 2009, but it ended almost as soon as it began. Indeed, I think Obama has gone in the “wrong direction,” as Fradkin and Libby say, but that is because he long ago abandoned any real effort at diplomatic engagement and has gone down a route of coercion and sanctions that make conflict more likely. Their complaint is that he didn’t go that way quickly enough, but they can’t really deny that he has.
The Green movement protests weren’t a “widespread rebellion.” The protests weren’t a rebellion at all. They were election protests expressing the grievances of Iranians over presumed election fraud. The protests didn’t seek to overthrow the government. Fradkin and Libby don’t explain what Obama would have accomplished regarding the nuclear issue if he had not “overlooked” these protests. Had he not “done his best to overlook” the protests, as they put it, would Iran have become more accommodating on the nuclear issue? Why? Are authoritarian regimes in the habit of making concessions to foreigners when they are facing internal unrest? Of course not. Would the protests have resulted in changes to Iran’s nuclear program? There is no evidence to support this, and quite a lot that suggests that most of the protesters believe in Iran’s right to enrichment on nationalist grounds.