“How it was done”: Some years ago, I heard that great scholar of Islam, Bernard Lewis, caution that America risked being seen as harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend. The Obama administration seems to have raised the thought to the level of doctrine. What has hitherto been unclear is whether this was through design or incompetence. Certainly, John Kerry has been unerringly wrong on every foreign-policy issue for four decades, so sheer bungling stupidity cannot be ruled out.
But look at it this way: It’s been clear for some time that the United States was not going to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. That leaves only one other nation even minded to keep the option on the table: Israel. Hence the strange new romance between the Zionist Entity and the Saudi and Gulf cabinet ministers calling every night to urge them to get cracking: In the post-American world, you find your friends where you can, even if they’re Jews. But Obama and Kerry have not only taken a U.S. bombing raid off the table, they’ve ensured that any such raid by Israel will now come at a much steeper price: It’s one thing to bomb a global pariah, quite another to bomb a semi-rehabilitated member of the international community in defiance of an agreement signed by the Big Five world powers. Indeed, a disinterested observer might easily conclude that the point of the plan seems to be to box in Israel rather than Iran.
If it were to have that effect, the Sunni Arab states would be faced with a choice of accepting de facto Shia Persian hegemony — or getting the Saudis to pay the Pakistanis for a Sunni bomb. Nobody in Araby believes the U.S. can “contain” Iran even if it wants to. And, since the Geneva deal, nobody’s very sure the U.S. wants to.
Meanwhile, through the many months they kept their allies in the dark, Washington was very obliging to the mullahs. According to the Times of Israel, among the Iranian prisoners quietly released by the U.S. as a friendly pre-deal gesture is Mojtada Atarodi, arrested in 2011 for attempting to acquire nuclear materials. Iran has felt under no pressure to reciprocate. America is containing itself, in hopes of a quiet life.
Will it get one? The Guardian reports that last Saturday night at the Geneva InterContinental the final stages of the P5+1 talks were played out to the music bleeding through from the charity bash in the adjoining ballroom. At one point, the band played Johnny Cash:
I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire . . .
So it does.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn