TEHRAN HOLDS OBAMA RE-ELECTION WILD CARD
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
First, a look back: Iran's Mullahs already have had one opportunity to affect American politics -- in the presidential election of 1980. Their seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for 444 days haunted incumbent President Jimmy Carter's reelection campaign and – thanks to such developments as yellow ribbons, a "Rose Garden" strategy, a failed rescue operation, and ABC's "America Held Hostage" program – contributed to his defeat. Ayatollah Khomeini rebuffed Carter's hopes for an "October surprise" release of the hostages and twisted the knife one final time by freeing them exactly as Ronald Wilson Reagan took the presidential oath.
Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barak Obama could share an Iranian challenge to their re-election bids.
Today, Iran has two potential roles in Obama's reelection campaign, as disrupter in Iraq or as target of U.S. attacks. Let's look at each of them:
Who lost Iraq? Although George W. Bush's administration signed the status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government, stipulating that "All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011," Obama's decision against keeping a residual force in Iraq made the troop withdrawal his choice and his burden. This puts him at risk: Should things go badly in Iraq in 2012, he, not Bush, would take the blame. Iran's supreme guide, Ali Khamene'i, in other words, can make Obama's life miserable.
Khamene'i has many options: He can exert more control over those many Iraqi leaders who are Shiite Islamists with a pro-Iranian outlook, some of whom even lived in exile in Iran. For example, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fits this mold. The Iranians can also influence Iraqi politics via the country's intelligence services, which they have already substantially penetrated. Or, they can move Iranian troops at will into Iraq, those tens of thousands of U.S. troops now gone from Iraq's eastern border, and engage in mischief of their choosing. Finally, they can support proxies like Muqtada al-Sadr or dispatch terrorist agents.
In 1980, the Iranians manipulated the American political process with hostages; in 2012, Iraq is their plaything. Should Iran's rulers decide to make trouble before November 6, the Republican candidate will blame Obama for "losing Iraq." Given Obama's long opposition to the war, that will sting.
(Alternatively, the Iranians can shift gears and make good on their threat to close the Straits of Hormuz to imperil the 17 percent of world oil that goes through that waterway, thereby creating global economic instability.)
Like Ayatollah Khomeini in 1980, Ayatollah Khamene'i now has the opportunity to affect American presidential elections.
Iranian Mullahs chose to harm a weakened Democrat in 1980, and could do so again; or, they could decide that Obama is more to their liking and desist. The key point is, the troop withdrawal hands them extra options. Obama may well rue not having kept them there until after the elections, which would have allowed him plausibly to claim, "I did my best."
Bomb Iranian nukes? Almost two years ago, when Obama still held a threadbare popular plurality among Americans of +3 percent, I suggested that a U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities "would dispatch Obama's feckless first year down the memory hole and transform the domestic political scene" to his benefit. With one action, he could both protect the United States of America from a dangerous enemy and redraw the election contest. "It would sideline health care, prompt Republicans to work with Democrats and make Netroots squeal, Independents reconsider, and Conservatives swoon."
As Obama's popularity has sunk to -4.4 percent and the congressional and presidential elections loom less than a year away, his incentive to bomb Iran has substantially increased, a point publicly discussed by a colorful range of figures, Americans (Sarah Palin, Pat Buchanan, Dick Cheney, Ron Paul, Elliott Abrams, George Friedman, David Broder, Donald Trump), as well as foreigners (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro). Health care, employment, and the national debt offer President Obama little solace, the political Left is disappointed, and the independent vote is up for grabs. Current skirmishes over sanctions and drones could be mere distraction; an attack on Iranian facilities would presumably take place in the first half of 2012, not too self-evidently close to the U.S. elections.
In conclusion: Khamene'i and Obama can both make trouble for the other. If they do, Iran and Iraq would play outsized roles in the presidential contest, continuing in their unique thirty-year role as the tar babies of American politics.
© 2011 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Originally Published in Washington Times, December 20, 2011
Reprinted with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from DanielPipes.org, December 20, 2011
The Middle East & the Problem of Iran
American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three Page Two Page One
International Politics & World Disorder:
War, Peace, & Geopolitics in the Real World:
Foreign Affairs & U.S. National Security
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Dr. Daniel Pipes, a Ph.D. in Islamic History (Harvard University, 1978), is Founder and President of the Middle East Forum, Publisher of Middle East Quarterly, Founder of Campus Watch, Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, a signatory of the Project for the New American Century, a former board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a former adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Golden Circle supporter of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, a former member of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Task Force on Terrorism and Technology, and a former lecturer at the U.S. Naval War College, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pipes was the Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1986 to 1993.
Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for National Review Online, Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
LINKS TO PARTICULAR ISSUES & SUBJECT MATTER CATEGORIES
TREATED IN THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, U.S.A.:
American Government 2 * American Government 3 * American Government 4
American Government 5 * American Politics * Anglosphere * Arabs
Arms Control & WMD * Aztlan Separatists * Big Government
Black Africa * Bureaucracy * Canada * China * Civil Liberties * Communism
Congress, U.S. * Conservative Groups * Conservative vs. Liberal
Constitutional Law * Counterterrorism * Criminal Justice * Disloyalty * Economy
Education * Elections, U.S. * Eminent Domain * Energy & Environment
English-Speaking World * Ethnicity & Race * Europe * Europe: Jews
Family Values * Far East * Fiscal Policy, U.S. * Foreign Aid, U.S. * Foreign Policy, U.S.
France * Germany * Hispanic Separatism * Hispanic Treason * Human Health * Immigration * Infrastructure, U.S. * Intelligence, U.S. * Iran * Iraq * Islamic North Africa
Islamic Threat * Islamism * Israeli vs. Arabs * Jews & Anti-Semitism
Jihad & Jihadism * Jihad Manifesto I * Jihad Manifesto II * Judges, U.S. Federal
Judicial Appointments * Judiciary, American * Latin America * Latino Separatism
Latino Treason * Lebanon * Leftists/Liberals * Legal Issues
Local Government, U.S. * Marriage & Family * Media Political Bias
Middle East: Arabs * Middle East: Iran * Middle East: Iraq * Middle East: Israel
Middle East: Lebanon * Middle East: Syria * Middle East: Tunisia
Middle East: Turkey * Militant Islam * Military Defense * Military Justice
Military Weaponry * Modern Welfare State * Morality & Decency
National Identity * National Security * Natural Resources * News Media Bias
North Africa * Patriot Act, USA * Patriotism * Political Culture * Political Ideologies
Political Parties * Political Philosophy * Politics, American * Presidency, U.S.
Private Property * Property Rights * Public Assistance * Radical Islam
Religion & America * Rogue States & WMD * Russia * Science & Ethics
Sedition & Treason * Senate, U.S. * Social Welfare Policy * South Africa
State Government, U.S. * Subsaharan Africa * Subversion * Syria * Terrorism 1
Terrorism 2 * Treason & Sedition * Tunisia * Turkey * Ukraine
UnAmerican Activity * UN & Its Agencies * USA Patriot Act * U.S. Foreign Aid
U.S. Infrastructure * U.S. Intelligence * U.S. Senate * War & Peace
Welfare Policy * WMD & Arms Control
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
POLITICAL EDUCATION, CONSERVATIVE ANALYSIS
POLITICS, SOCIETY, & THE SOVEREIGN STATE
Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor