Iran: Downplayed in President Obama’s State of the Union Speech

James Phillips /

President Obama’s state of the union speech tonight mentioned Iran, which poses the greatest immediate challenge to American foreign policy, in only one paragraph. The president stated:

“Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one.  The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.  Let there be no doubt:  America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.  But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.”

But Iran does not seem to be in any hurry to “rejoin the community of nations.”  In recent months it has plotted to bomb a Washington restaurant to kill the Saudi Ambassador, sacked the British Embassy in Tehran, threatened to block oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz and sentenced to death an Iranian-American ex-Marine who it claims is a spy.   Meanwhile, its uranium enrichment efforts have accelerated, bringing it closer than ever before to a nuclear weapons capability.

Given the Obama Administration’s lack of a forceful response to any of these challenges, the President’s promise to “take no options off the table” is sure to be regarded as an empty threat in Tehran.  Left unsaid in his reference to “crippling sanctions” is the inconvenient truth that his administration repeatedly has opposed and sought to soften congressional legislation to ratchet up sanctions against Iran.   In fact, the most recent U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank were imposed on the administration by Congress, after the Senate voted 100-0 to override the administration’s objections to the sanctions.

new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press indicates that Iran is regarded by Americans as the foremost national threat to U.S. security.  But the Obama Administration clings to its failed diplomatic strategy to engage a despicable regime and has been left behind by an assertive bipartisan majority in Congress, which pushed for the strongest possible sanctions.  Nevertheless, the president tonight sought to take credit for “crippling sanctions” that his administration opposed.