The Romney campaign’s foreign policy memo yesterday also had some strange things to say on Iran:
The Iranian program has gotten to this point because President Obama has squandered all credibility with the ayatollahs.
How did Obama do this? The memo lists five causes: 1) engagement; 2) not supporting the Green movement; 3) “weak” sanctions policy; 4) “abandoning” missile defense in Europe; 5) “undermining credibility” of military action. Once one gets past the surface of these accusations, Romney’s complaints are largely unfounded or otherwise not credible. Acknowledging that military action will only delay and not destroy Iranian nuclear facilities is admitting something that everyone already knows to be true. It does not build credibility to make public claims that no one takes seriously. The missile defense claim is just as dishonest and ridiculous when it is made in connection with Iran as it is when linked to Russia policy. For some reason, Romney feels compelled to repeat nonsense in order to advance his very strained, misleading arguments on both Russia and Iran.
Obama’s engagement with Iran, such as it was, died in 2009, and it has never been revived. There’s not much more to say about that, except that we’ll have no idea whether a sustained policy of engagement might have yielded different results. The “weak” sanctions policy is, in fact, quite punitive and has been inflicting needless suffering on the Iranian people. Barbara Slavin reported on the nature and effects of these “weak” sanctions:
Iran has been subjected to various economic restrictions since the 1979 Islamic revolution. But the breadth and depth of the sanctions effort has escalated dramatically over the last few years as Iran has continued a nuclear program in defiance of six UN Security Council resolutions. The most stringent penalties have come since 2010, when Congress passed and President Obama signed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act. The law threatens to expel from the US market any foreign banks that deal with entities connected to Iran’s nuclear program, the country’s Revolutionary Guards or terrorism. Legislation passed last year adds Iran’s Central Bank to a list of more than 20 banned Iranian institutions. Foreign financial institutions, weighing their US business against the Iran market, have fled Iran in droves.
Obama’s support for Iran sanctions is cruel and useless, but that isn’t what Romney finds objectionable. If he had his way, sanctions would be even more severe.
That brings us to the most inane criticism of the bunch, which concerns Obama’s lack of support for the Green movement. Obama did, in fact, speak in support of the protesters within a few weeks of the presidential election in Iran, but that’s almost beside the point. Obama’s greater rhetorical support would not have changed the outcome of the protests, and lending sustained rhetorical support to protests against the current leadership would hardly have made the Iranian regime any more likely to acquiesce to U.S. demands on the nuclear issue. The Iranian opposition is the political force inside Iran that is harmed the most by the sanctions that Romney still thinks are too weak, and if he had his way the Iranian opposition would be even weaker because sanctions invariably strengthen the regime and its cronies at the expense of everyone else in a country. If Romney wants to argue that Obama is not doing enough to strangle the Iranian economy and has “failed” to impose even more unjust burdens on the Iranian people, he can do so, but he might at least have the decency to stop pretending that this has anything to do with supporting the Iranian opposition. It doesn’t, and it never has.