Thursday, April 2, 2015

History in the Making

Here is what the LA Times reported on November 24, 2013:
In mid-March, a small team of U.S. officials boarded a military plane and flew to the tiny Persian Gulf sultanate of Oman on a diplomatic mission so sensitive — and risky — that only President Obama and his closest advisors knew about it.

In a secret encounter arranged by the longtime monarch, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Americans sat down with a delegation of Iranian diplomats and nuclear experts in the capital city, Muscat, an ancient trading port on the Arabian Sea.

It was the first in a series of at least five clandestine meetings this year between U.S. and Iranian officials in Oman and elsewhere after more than three decades of bitter estrangement. They paved the way for the landmark agreement announced early Sunday in Geneva designed to freeze Iran's nuclear program for six months while negotiators seek a more comprehensive pact.

The hidden effort was a gamble by Obama...
In our fast-paced 24/7 news market, it can feel like the negotiations that were announced that week have been going on for a long time. But as that article points out, those initial clandestine meetings ended "more than three decades" of estrangement between the U.S. and Iran. That's how long we had gone without any "official" communication between the two countries.

That article describes those early encounters as "sensitive," "risky," and "clandestine," precisely because President Obama was taking such a gamble in even talking to the Iranians.

What's interesting to note is how often this President has been described as "cautious." There is probably some truth in that. But I love how Steve Waldman phrased it. He suggests that Obama has a "pitch-perfect sense of when to take the big risk." Up until now, the examples most often cited for that are his continued commitment to health care reform after Scott Brown was elected and his decision to attack the compound in Abbattobad, Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Now we can add to that list his decision to open up talks with Iran over their nuclear weapons program.

The result of taking that risk is that today President Obama was able to announce that history is in the making.


  1. As always, he's reassuring to watch. We're lucky to have him in charge at a time like this.

    It's historic indeed because he's having to pull it off in the face of such an unprecedented assortment of lunatics -- Iranian hard-liners, Netanyahu, the Saudi regime, and of course Congressional Republicans who actually need to be reminded that a matter of this gravity "should be evaluated based on the facts", presumably as opposed to being evaluated based on whatever delusional accusations they pull out of their asses to score domestic political points with.

    He covered all the bases well, though. All those sirens in the background were probably responding to widespread reports of Republicans' heads exploding.

  2. Obama didn't "bomb" Bin Laden, it was a stealth attack on the compound.

  3. Nancy, I have been with you on how this President works. All the hand wringing and nay saying while this was going and the negotiations was something to behold. I blame the media for a lot of it and the stubbornness of our people and congress to be such fools when it comes to POTUS and I am talking some Democratic Senators & Reps. I sure haven't heard from any that they are whole heartedly supporting this Iran deal. Like Joe Biden says it's a BFD. I am so proud of this man trying to make a difference in the world and the backlash he gets for doing it. People forget the US culpability in the estrangement with Iran. We hardly ever own up to what the US meddling all over the world has done for world peace. Thank you again Nancy. You are just amazing.

  4. We can all be pretty confident that none of this would have happened with Hillary as SOS. I'm so happy about this. Thanks for your coverage, Nancy.

  5. He's not particularly cautious. He just has an acknowledged ineptitude and disinterest for military conquer that the rest of the American national security establishment would do well to emulate. He doesn't throw himself off buildings recklessly, but he's not cautious. He's a guy who bragged about stopping the seas from rising and healing the world forever. His most consistent trait is his boundless ambition.

    And coerced diplomacy has never been a historically risky strategy, that's conservative propaganda polluting good thinking. It doesn't mean that these "historic" deals guarantee any particular longterm liberalization (Camp David, post-Soviet Russia, etc. sure didn't), but they represent real, physical constraints on bad state behavior. People refused to believe the reality that we took Iran's money and they had to make a deal to get it back. It worked. A web of economic coercion and cooperation vs. exhausted tactics of isolation or war is basically foundational Obama Foreign Policy 101.


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