More and more Democrats are throwing their weight in behind US President Barack Obama and the nuclear deal with Iran, which – despite enduring opposition – is rapidly gaining momentum. Amid the supporting and dissenting voices, some have expressed more complex positions, from cautious optimism to sophisticated, multilayered critiques.
A recent op-ed published by Gil Roy on The Daily Beast certainly fits the latter description: opening with an evocation of a US president who was “wooed by the potential for Iranian moderates to take control,” Roy went on to describe a leader and “deluded aides” who took “great political and diplomatic risks to move Iran’s mullahocracy beyond its aggressively anti-American stance,” investing “so much in this moderate breakthrough” that they were willing to “risk offending Congress” and “bypass its constitutionally-sanctioned foreign policy input” in order to reach out to these moderates – who, incidentally, would not go on to steer Iran in a more American-friendly direction as planned.
Was the US president in question Barack Obama, and did the passage refer to his dedication to the recently-signed nuclear deal with Iran? No. In fact, Roy’s piece was a throwback to 1985, when former president Ronald Reagan’s administration “tried freeing American hostages and boosting Iran’s supposed moderates” by “resupplying Iran with American weapons and spare parts,” then used the profits to fund the Contra insurgency in Nicaragua, a move outlawed by Congress at the time.
Eventually, Reagan’s presidency was compromised by the schemes, and he was forced to admit to “the American people” that he had traded “arms for hostages.” Reagan’s presidency was redeemed by his “surprising love-in” with the Soviet Union; but the bottom line, the one Roy intends for the Obama administration to take home, is that the “traditional, delightfully innocent, American belief in the power of reason and reasonableness” is not always applicable to theocratic regimes spewing “terrifying” hate speech, even when you really want to hope that the “Diet Coke moderates” you’re precariously reaching out to – and placing your trust and that of your nation in – are the real deal.
Ultimately, the deal might be a good idea, but like the risky (or “zany,” to quote Roy) scheme a “desperate” Reagan once approved, it also might very well not be – and in any case, The Daily Beast’s history lesson teaches us that it may not be wise to gamble on the idea of changing Iran by empowering (or even trusting) its “moderates.”