To begin with, scrap the nuclear deal
As the Obama presidency fades from the scene, its most consequential and catastrophic legacy in foreign affairs is its Iran policy. Iran’s clerical leaders today possess a nuclear infrastructure that is gradually expanding and is blessed by the international community. For the first time in its modern history, Tehran is in a commanding position from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Iran’s leaders continue to castigate the United States from their platforms while their Revolutionary Guards taunt the American armada patrolling international waters. The incoming Trump administration should not just tinker with this legacy but cast it aside altogether.
President Barack Obama was the architect of his own Iran strategy, and brought to it his own peculiar concerns. For Obama, the success of the policy was measured not by the traditional benchmark of whether it arrested Iran’s ambitions, but by the extent to which it propitiated a nation he thought had been abused for too long by the United States. His historical illiteracy was nowhere more on display than in Iran, as he reduced complex events to bumper-sticker slogans: America had overthrown a legitimately elected government of Iran in 1953 and then buttressed a cruel despot for nearly three decades. The clerical leaders are not hardened anti-Western ideologues but mere nationalists whose legitimate prerogatives have been trampled upon by arrogant Americans. And the Islamic Republic’s imperial surge is a legitimate expression of a regional stakeholder. If a little history is a dangerous thing, in the hands of Obama it was absolutely toxic. The sum total of his achievements was the worst nuclear agreement in the history of U.S. arms-control diplomacy and an emboldened Iran rampaging across the Middle East.