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What They're Saying about "Obama's Secret Iran Strategy"

Michael Doran’s essay provoked a “firestorm in the policy world.” Here’s a roundup of arguments for and against his thesis.

Official White House photo, Pete Souza.

Official White House photo, Pete Souza.

Response
Feb. 19 2015

In the week-and-a-half since it’s been published, Michael Doran’s “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy” has provoked an extraordinary degree of public debate, from Washington, D.C. to Jerusalem to, perhaps, Tehran. In addition to the invited responses from, so far, Elliott Abrams and Eric Edelman, we’ve collected some of the more notable public comments for the benefit of readers who may have missed them. Clips from each and links are below.

Next week, Doran, per Mosaic custom, will have the last word. For those who can’t wait to hear more from him, he can be caught discussing his essay on radio. You can listen to him on the Hugh Hewitt Show here (along with an appearance by Lee Smith) or on Voice of Israel’s Yishai Fleisher Show here or in the player at the bottom of this post.

“Who to Believe on Iran: Obama or Netanyahu?” by David Horovitz, Times of Israel

  • “Either, as asserted in articles such as Michael Doran’s ‘Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,’ the Obama administration is in the grip of a blinding ideological fog. . . . Or, as asserted by the prime minister’s critics, Benjamin Netanyahu is misrepresenting the dangers and those around him are mischaracterizing the terms being negotiated.”

“Why the White House Is Getting Lonelier on Iran” by Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

  • As my colleague Michael Doran has recently pointed out in an article that contributed to the rising disquiet about the administration’s Iran strategy, the approach to Iran has been the centerpiece of the administration’s Middle East strategy from 2009 to the present day.

“This Is the Best Explanation of What Conservatives Don’t like about Obama’s Foreign Policy” by Zack Beauchamp, Vox

  • Though Doran’s argument “relies on a real degree of unevidenced speculation about what happened within closed-door administration meetings to guide these policies,” it’s “an essential window into the politically salient mainline conservative criticism of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy.”

“Why Obama Won’t Talk About Islamic Terrorism” by David Frum, The Atlantic

  • Michael Doran “reminds us of a revealing line from a profile of the Obama administration’s foreign policy decision making: ‘The thing we spent the most time on’ was also the thing ‘we talked least about in public.’ In that case, the ‘thing’ was the project to achieve détente with Iran. But other projects also signal their importance by going undiscussed, and near the top of that list is the Obama administration’s distinctive counter-terrorism policy.”

“A Return to the Middle Eastern Great Game” by Martin Indyk, Brookings

  • “Without [a nuclear] agreement, it is impossible to imagine cooperation with Iran on regional issues; with an agreement, collaboration on issues of common interest becomes possible, much as Obama is reported to have suggested in his November 2014 letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader and much as some conservative commentators mistakenly believe is already taking place.”

“Lack of Clarity,” by the editorial staff of the Jerusalem Post 

  • Doran and others may or may not be right. There is very little to go on. What we do know is that during negotiations with Iran, the P5+1, led by America, has shown a worrying willingness to accommodate the Iranians.”

“Losing the Forest of Iran Policy for the Trees of a Nuclear Deal” by Michael Koplow, Ottomans and Zionists

  • “There has been tons of discussion over the past week about Mike Doran’s recent voluminous piece in Mosaic. . . . I have quibbles with some of his details and sub-arguments, but I find the overarching thesis convincing: that the White House’s ultimate goal is to turn Iran into an ally based on the view that the U.S. and Iran are natural partners with a set of common interests.”

“Obama’s Party Line: Radical Islam Denial” by Jamie Kirchick, The Daily Beast

  • “Downplaying global anti-Semitism fits in with the president’s broader Middle East strategy, which consists of distancing the United States from its traditional ally in the region, Israel, while opening its doors to historic enemy, Iran. The history and reasoning behind this policy is explained in a new, magisterial essay in the online magazine Mosaic by Hudson Institute scholar Michael Doran.”

“Worse than No Strategy” by Clifford D. May, Washington Times

  • “Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has not just speculated about Mr. Obama’s ‘secret strategy.’ He has painstakingly combed through the record and produced a 9,000-word report persuasively establishing that Mr. Obama, since early in his presidency, has been in pursuit of a “comprehensive agreement” that would allow Iran to become what the president has called ‘a very successful regional power.'”

“Obama’s Quest for a Grand Bargain with Iran Seems Unwise” by Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

  • Doran makes “a powerful case” that “‘a grand bargain with Iran’ has been and remains the central goal of Obama’s foreign policy. . . . Just as George W. Bush thought Iraqis were yearning for American-style democracy and capitalism, so Obama seems to be assuming that Iran seeks to be an American-style power, prosperous and generous-minded.”

“Why Does Obama Crave a Grand Bargain with Iran?” by Paul Mirengoff, Powerline

  • “Important commentators have come around to the view that [I] have long expressed — that President Obama is in thrall to Iran and that the nuclear negotiations aren’t really about curbing Iran’s nuclear capacity, but rather about striking a grand bargain with the mullahs. Michael Doran’s excellent essay in Mosaic, which was one of our Power Line “picks,” is a good example of recent commentary to this effect.

“The ‘New York Times’ Violates My Protocol” by Liel Liebovitz, Tablet

  • As Doran shows “in his factually grounded analysis of Obama’s Iran policy, when it comes to negotiating with the Islamic Republic, the Obama Administration is committed to keeping everyone in the dark.”

“Nuclear Dreams: Iran Now Controls Four Arab Capitals, Plus Washington, D.C.” by Lee Smith, Tablet

  • As Michael Doran “meticulously lays out in his recently published tour-de-force ‘Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,’ the U.S.-Iran partnership that is reshaping the Middle East has been in the making since Obama first came to office.”

“Imad Mughniyeh and Obama’s Covert War” by Max Boot, Commentary

  • “As Michael Doran argues in Mosaic, President Obama is carrying out a secret strategy to court Iran.”

“Relax, Iran Is Not Taking Over the Middle East” by Alireza Nader, The National Interest

  • “The conflicts in the Middle East are much more complex than ‘Iran on the march’ theories would have us believe. A diplomatic resolution of the nuclear issue can allow Washington more room to deal with Iran’s regional influence.”

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs