to hold prisoners indefinitely for the duration of conflict, even if due process finds theminnocent. During a November 2009 hearing, Eric Holder, the attorney general,toldtheSenate Judiciary Committee that any detainee acquitted by a military tribunal could still be
held by the government “under the laws of war.” And Obama’s unwillingness to use his
surrogates, or his own pulpit, to press Congress more forcefully on the issue, suggests that theprison will remain open for the foreseeable future.This approach extends into other areas of international criminal law. The Obamaadministration has shuttered CIA black sites, but Obama continues to support a renditionpolicy that exports terrorism suspects to foreign countries, effectively outsourcing
interrogation work to foreign allies. As under Bush, this policy relies simply on “diplomaticassurances” to protect against torture.
On Iran, the Bush administration managed to pass three unanimous UN Security Councilresolutions imposing sanctions on the country between 2006 and 2008. It generatedagreement among skeptical players such as Indonesia, Libya, and Qatar, all of whom voted forthe final resolutions. Today, Obama has advanced the very same multilateral strategy througha single Security Council resolution, which was adopted in 2010. He was aided by strongefforts in Congress to impose sanctions through national legislation. With his
push for increased financial enforcement, coupled with sophisticatedcyberattacks against the Iranians, Obama has simply elevated the aggressiveness of existingpunitive measures.
On the campaign trail, Obama’s rhetoric emphasized engaging with Iran on the nuclear issue.
Obama famously said that he would be willing to sit down for face-to-face talks withPresident Ahmadinejad to negotiate a resolution to the crisis, since Bush had refused toengage diplomatically, barring a suspension of uranium enrichment activities. Yet once inoffice, Obama has followed suit. Where China and Russia have been unwilling to engage,Obama has leveraged NATO allies and worked outside of the UN system to expand the scopeof sanctions on the regime.Similarly, the Obama administration has been as reticent as the Bush administration toprovide the full extent of military support to Israel that could hasten a military strike. But ithas also increased defense cooperation between the two countries, signing the United States
Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, which strengthens the existing defensepartnership.Obama has also demonstrated a willingness to act militarily, mobilizing U.S. forces in thePersian Gulf. The large presence of aircraft carrier strike groups in the region aims to deterIran from provocations that could affect the flow of goods through the Strait of Hormuz. The
carriers also serve to reassure Israel that the United States is ready to strike at a moment’s