The President’s Revealing Comments on Iran’s Anti-Semitism

Mosaic Magazine
 MAY 26

In a lengthy interview last week with the columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, Barack Obama spoke about the Iran deal—and the Iranian regime’s official anti-Semitism. The president’s comments, Armin Rosen notes, reveal a fundamental defect in his thinking about the motives of the Islamic Republic’s motives:

A nuclear deal [would] be signed with an Iranian regime that promotes an intensely anti-Western and, as President Obama readily admits, anti-Semitic state ideology. Goldberg wondered how the president could believe that anti-Semitism was inherently irrational, while also believing that the Tehran regime was itself rational.

President Obama’s answer offered unintentional insight into how he views his Iranian counterparts. “Well, the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival,” he said. . . .

This may be true enough, but it discounts how anti-Semitism could inform the regime’s strategic and economic considerations. After all, in spreading anti-Semitism and supporting terrorism against Jewish and Israeli targets, the regime invited sanctions and a general isolation that’s all but locked the country out of valuable consumer markets. . . .

[Nevertheless, the president] believes that the Iranian government’s anti-Semitism is subject to the same rational cost-benefit calculus as any other aspects of a nation’s behavior, even if anti-Semitism is itself irrational.

Whether this is true gets to the heart of the U.S.’s nuclear diplomacy. . . . Barack Obama’s years of Iran nuclear diplomacy will be a waste . . . if Iran’s top leadership can’t leave ideology aside [in favor of] a rational and unselfish decision about what the country’s future should look like.