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Obama 'Mideast surprises'? Unlikely.

There are plenty of reasons to question Niall Ferguson's musings about possible last-minute Obama 'surprises' aimed at winning the election. His most recent column in particular.

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Ferguson will be surprised then.

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There simply is no comprehensive nuclear settlement with Iran on the table at the moment, and the thought that such a deal could be negotiated in the coming days is ludicrous. As for Obama going to war with Iran to win an election, which like all wars will be easy to start but harder to finish, as a cynical power grab? No.

For one thing, most Americans don't want another war after the ruinous Afghan and Iraq adventures of the past decade. If the electorate sniffed that Obama had fecklessly sent the nation to war for his own ambition (Ferguson detests Obama sufficiently that he appears to believe this is likely), they would likely punish him at the polls.

For another, the coils of a sanctions regime are slowly tightening. Obama wants to see if they'll work. Even the Israelis acknowledge that Iran has stepped back from its nuclear progress of late. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak just pushed back the oft-pushed-back Israeli "moment of truth" on Iran another eight months.

The way Ferguson deals with his "surprise no. 1," though, is illustrative of his world view and yet another reason why his opinions should be treated with, well, metric tons of salt. The fact is that an agreement from Iran to abandon its nuclear program, without a shot being fired, would be an unalloyed good thing from a US perspective, no matter who was in the White House. Yet Ferguson views his hypothetical only through the lens of what it might mean for Romney:

If the White House could announce a historic deal with Iran—lifting increasingly painful economic sanctions in return for an Iranian pledge to stop enriching uranium—Mitt Romney would vanish as if by magic from the front pages and TV news shows. The oxygen of publicity—those coveted minutes of airtime that campaigns don’t have to pay for—would be sucked out of his lungs.

You can take it to the bank that Ferguson's speculation will be proven wrong in the very near future. And almost as certain is my prediction that he'll be pushing forth similarly fanciful and inaccurate theories on the pages of The Daily Beast some time soon.

Caveat lector.


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