During the third debate moderator Bob Schieffer asked the candidates a question about reported talks between Iran, the US and other parties. Obama answered thus:
Well, first of all, those were reports in the newspaper. They are not true. But our goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place, because they have the opportunity to re-enter the community of nations, and we would welcome that. There are — there are people in Iran who have the same aspirations as people all around the world, for a better life. And we hope that their leadership takes the right decision. But the deal we’ll accept is, they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.
By saying ‘it’s very straightforward’ he’s being very emphatic, so the question is; has Obama shifted the goal posts? Has Obama created for himself an opportunity to present Iran with an ultimatum after the election; an ultimatum which, if knocked back, will provide Obama with a casus belli to attack Iran?
Up until now, the understanding has been that Iran, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is entitled to pursue a nuclear program aimed at providing nuclear fuel for electricity generation and nuclear products for medical isotopes.
While many of America’s Western allies might go along with Obama’s realigned demands, it is unlikely that Russia and China will. Yesterday, when Obama made his statement it seemed that it may have been a simple slip of the tongue and that he had meant to say that ‘they end their nuclear weapons program’. As of this writing, however, no such clarification has been made.
Some commentators seem to think it was just a slip of the tongue and that Obama was referring to a nuclear weapons program. Neocon Jonathan Tobin on the other hand, writing in Commentary, takes Obama’s words literally arguing that Obama, “unlike some politicians, …is generally fairly careful about the way he uses words”. It may well be that Tobin is just indulging in a bit of wishful thinking though, without clarification from the White House, it might just be that Obama has found a way to get the Final Confrontation up and going after the election. It remains to be seen what the Russians and Chinese think of it.