Hillary Clinton’s Loose Talk of War with Iran

The Obama administration says it wants peace in the Middle East. When will it start acting like it?

When President Obama spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee some weeks ago, he admonished those who engaged in “loose talk of war” about Iran. Apparently, his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, didn’t get the memo.

The Associated Press reported this week,

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made clear Saturday that time is running out for diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program and said talks aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would resume in mid-April. With speculation over a possible U.S. or Israel military attack adding urgency to the next round of discussions in Istanbul set for April 13, Clinton said Iran's “window of opportunity” for a peaceful resolution “will not remain open forever.”

She also expressed doubt about whether Iran has any intention of negotiating a solution that satisfies the U.S., Israel and other countries that believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

That’s another memo Clinton seems not to have received. Both American and Israeli intelligence say that Iran has neither started to build a nuclear weapon nor even decided to do so in the future. Both also regard the Iranian government as a “rational actor.” (The American news media occasionally reports this, but then goes back to stating, as though it were uncontroversial, that Iran is building a nuclear arsenal.)

So why the conflicting signals from the U.S. government? This conflict can be seen in Obama’s own statements. While he calls for diplomacy and warns against loose war talk, he has imposed harsh economic sanctions that make the daily lives of average Iranians miserable, has rejected “containment,” and boasted that he doesn’t “bluff.”

If Iran is not building a nuclear bomb, if it has not decided to do so, and if Obama wants to use diplomacy to discuss Iran’s uranium-enrichment program (which its government says is for peaceful purposes), why is he pushing sanctions designed to bring the Iranian economy down? Wouldn’t it make more sense, if there is really something to negotiate about, for Obama to treat the Iranian regime with respect?

The saber rattlers will say that sanctions are needed to get Iran to the negotiating table. But that’s an evasion. The official experts, as well as others, say no bomb is being built. Iran is doing what it is free to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—enriching uranium for medical and energy purposes. It is subjected to inspections and its uranium is under seal by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

There is no constructive purpose to the sanctions and war talk. Clinton aggravates an already dangerous situation when she talks ominously about windows closing and clocks running. She sounds bent on war, with Obama just a bit less so.

Why?

Two reasons suggest themselves. It’s an election year. The Republican presidential candidate (unless it’s Ron Paul) can be expected to portray Obama as insufficiently bloodthirsty. Mitt Romney hopes we’ll ignore Obama’s expansion of the criminal drone war in Pakistan and Somalia, his due-process-free assassination of Americans in Yemen, his autocratic intervention in Libya, his continuation of the brutal occupation of Afghanistan, and his signing legislation to codify the president’s power to detain even American citizens indefinitely without charge or trial. Romney’s foreign-policy team are some of the same people who gave us the lie-based invasion of Iraq, which was responsible for the deaths of well over a million people and the creation of more than four million refugees. Word is that the presumptive candidate plans to hammer Obama on his handling of foreign affairs. According to The Washington Post, “In his speeches, Romney has proposed a more confrontational approach to China, Russia, Iran and other countries.”

The Obama campaign may have calculated that they can’t afford to look weak on Iran. Yet this is not the only reason. Israel’s top officials appear to have decided that an attack on Iran is imperative. But without U.S. help, Israel’s air force can do no more than set Iran’s (peaceful) nuclear program back for a brief time. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues his threatening talk, supported by the Israel lobby in the United States. Israel-partisans in the U.S. media routinely channel Netanyahu’s war talk to the American public in order to build sympathy for the nonexistent Iranian threat to Israel.

Obama says he wants peace not war. When will he begin to act like it?

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. and author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. This article originally appeared at The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  • Pham Nuwen||

    Goddamn it! You are making my gas more expensive with all this talk of smashing Iran. Stop it!

  • anon||

    Fucking registration system!

    Barack Obama: "The price of energy must necessarily skyrocket."

  • NotSure||

    He really wants peace, the militarly buildup around Iran, the economic sanctions, the open threats of attack, those are all signs of someone who wants peace.

  • SugarFree||

    It’s an election year. The Republican presidential candidate (unless it’s Ron Paul) can be expected to portray Obama as insufficiently bloodthirsty.

    Obama's solution: "If you want peace, we must get rid of the pesky elections that make me go to war."

  • Eric||

    Snarky comment, but what sucks is that it's true...And not just for Obama. Presidents must waste the entire fourth year of their term trying to get reelected. I vote for an amendment to limit the Executive's term to 1 six year stint. If voter's are happy at the end of it, they can elect the VP.

  • Tim||

    War? With SYria or Iran, or both? And warming up in the batter's box Uganda and the Lord's Liberation Army!

  • o3||

    uganda is an ally against al sheboob who've been busy kidnapping westerners & blowing-up somali govt officals. >syria is a sticky wicket w aQ & hamas supporting the rebels.

  • Ken Shultz||

    War? With SYria or Iran, or both? And warming up in the batter's box Uganda and the Lord's Liberation Army!

    And that's just Hillary Clinton's foreign policy...

    Who knows what the president wants? I guess Hillary's not reading his emails anymore, or maybe he stopped sending them, who knows?

    But the Obama Administration has a foreign policy. It's just that what it is depends on who you talk to in the administration, and what Obama had for breakfast that morning.

    Why is that so hard for people to understand? Don't you people know anything about how to run the White House?!

  • Ken Shultz||

    So why the conflicting signals from the U.S. government? This conflict can be seen in Obama’s own statements.

    It isn't just about Iran.

    For any of you out there who still aren't clear on the matter, the Obama Administration is woefully incompetent.

    1) Why would a president unnecessarily anger Catholics in an election year?

    a) All part of some ingenious plan.
    b) He's incompetent.

    2) Why would the president weigh in on the Trayvon Martin case before the facts became clear, potentially angering everyone from Latino voters to nuts?

    a) All part of some ingenious plan.
    b) He's incompetent.

    3) Why would the president antagonize the Supreme Court before it makes a ruling on his signature legislation by saying the Court has no right to overturn laws made by Congress?

    a) All part of some ingenious plan.
    b) He's incompetent.

    4) Why would the president's Secretary of State say something completely contrary to what the president himself is saying on Iran?

    a) All part of some ingenious plan.
    b) He's woefully incompetent.

    The answer to all of them can't be "a"; doesn't there have to be a "b" in that steaming pile somewhere?

    So he can't seem to get on the same page with his Secretary of State; that's not surprising. I bet he didn't even know that was something people expected.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    I'm not trying to be a wiseass, but I honestly think (a) is the better answer for the first three questions. All those actions make sense if you just think of Obama as a politician trying to motivate his base to come out and vote for him again.

    Like with #1, he probably calculated that whatever support he'd lose among Catholics would more than be offset by getting high turnout among voters worried about THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN.

  • anon||

    All those actions make sense if you just think of Obama as a politician trying to motivate his base to come out and vote for him again.

    If he's still stuck motivating his base, he's already lost.

  • Ken Shultz||

    All those actions make sense if you just think of Obama as a politician trying to motivate his base to come out and vote for him again.

    1) Catholics, particularly in New York and Boston, vote Democrat. They donate to his campaign! Biting the hand that feeds you in an election year does not motivate his base. It makes them angry.

    We had priests all over the country effectively denouncing him in front of his base from the pulpit--all on the same Sunday. That didn't fire up his base; that made them feel nauseated.

    2) Does he have a problem with black voters in the South that he needs to motivate them to come out and vote for him? I'd think the Latino vote would be more important there. Surely he could find a way to motivate black voters in Florida in a way that doesn't alienate marginal support elsewhere in that crucial state.

    3) If you're saying that he antagonized the Supreme Court, by saying that they have no right to overturn laws passed by Congress, so that he could get ObamaCare overturned--and then profit from the outrage on the left?

    I don't know what to say.

    He scores very few points on the left by attacking the Supreme Court's right to overturn Congress. In fact, he opened up new fronts for criticism of himself from the left.

    ...which is why he backpedaled so forcefully:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/.....eme-court/

    Add it all up, and incompetent is as incompetent does, Forrest.

  • Ken Shultz||

    From the same link as above, here's what Obama said:

    "I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress"

    He felt it necessary to address the press at a later date, because of the firestorm his stupid statement caused--among his own supporters in addition to everyone else--when he said:

    "The point I was making...is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution and our laws, and all of us have to respect it."

    http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/.....eme-court/

    If his original statement was all part of some ingenious plan to fire up his base, then why did he feel it necessary to speak up and completely contradict it?

    It wasn't an ingenious plan.

    He's grossly incompetent as a PR man, and being a PR man is his greatest asset. The emperor has no clothes, Buddy Roe. He's makin' it up as he goes along! The genius meme is just being projected onto him by his fans in the media. They should be ashamed of themselves, and before this is all over, they will be.

  • fried wylie||

    The genius meme

    "Oooooo Long Johnson, Oooo Long Johnson, Ooooo....."
    -Barack H. Obama

  • Devil's Advocate||

    Surely he could find a way to motivate black voters in Florida in a way that doesn't alienate marginal support elsewhere in that crucial state.

    He is black and he is a Democrat. Simply existing and being on the ballot is easily enough to motivate black voters to vote for him. There is no need to go beyond that and delve into those pesky policy issues like the WOD that are killing black communities throughout the country.

  • anon||

    Well shit, when you put it that way....

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Some hear, "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." And others hear, "Balm balm balm, balm balm Iran." It's all a matter of projection.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Right on! (To coin a phrase)

  • anon||

    I just had this thought; could Obama be opposed to Iran's nuclear program simply because he's against nuclear fission as a power source? Is this merely another facet of his "green" crusade?

  • o3||

    yes if by teh green u mean israel

  • jacob||

    WTF? I thought registration was supposed to fix this.

  • anon||

    Nothing can stop the anonbot. Nothing.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You'd have to go premoderation.

    And we don't want to go premoderation.

  • LP||

    If U.S. Officials suddenly think Iran isn't a threat, shouldn't the question be why the intelligence changed so drastically?

  • LP||

    The article just sort of tosses it off, like "oh yeah, Iran isn't a threat. Everyone knows it. We've always known it." Well, no. During the Iraq war no one thought Iran wasn't a threat. Why was our intelligence so bad and why should we trust it more now?

  • LP||

    Oh, and why in February did they proclaim nuclear advances? Were they kidding?

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