President Obama has two more years in office to match his grand ambitions to the grim realities in foreign policy.
He spoke of his plans in a year-end interview with NPR, shortly before leaving Washington for the holidays. Obama defended his strategy and vision, despite continued chaos in the Middle East and Russia’s defiance of the West regarding Ukraine.
The president’s challenge is to make good on goals he has pursued for years. When we spoke, he had just restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, bypassing critics who said he was rewarding a despotic regime.
This made me curious about a still more provocative step: normalization with Iran.
Administration officials speak optimistically about reaching a final nuclear deal with Iran, though a negotiating deadline has twice been extended.
The President said that if Iran only would seize its chance to make a deal, the Islamic republic could emerge as a “very successful regional power” — an outcome that, the President knows, would dismay most of our Middle Eastern allies and many of his critics in the U.S.
Iran talks are part of Obama’s long-running effort to approach the Middle East in a fresh way. His strategy is radically different from that of his predecessor, President Bush, but their efforts have had something in common: unintended consequences.
Obama came into office criticizing the invasion of Iraq, but his more limited interventions in Libya and Syria have failed to prevent chaos. Shouldn’t the U.S. have done more?