Engagement with Iran has not worked

Washington Post:

The disclosure of a second uranium enrichment site in Iran has led the Obama administration to shift the emphasis in its dealings with the Islamic republic -- away from engagement and toward building an international consensus for sterner action against Tehran.

The effort to directly engage Iran was a hallmark of the early months of the administration, with President Obama offering a televised greeting in honor of the Persian New Year and sending private letters to the country's supreme leader. But the gestures went largely unreciprocated. Now, while not shutting the door on engagement entirely, the United States and its allies plan to forcefully press the case that Tehran has been caught, red-handed, in yet another violation of international rules.

Officials hope that the pressure -- to be applied at previously scheduled talks Thursday in Geneva -- will force Iran into a broader discussion about its program and then into a serious set of negotiations.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, sharing the stage with Obama at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, said Friday that time is running out for Iran to avoid answering questions.

Everything must now be put on the table," he said bluntly. "Let us not allow the Iranian leaders to buy time while the centrifuges are turning. And if by December there is no significant change in policy on the part of the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken."

The talks in Switzerland will involve diplomats from Iran, as well as those from the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. U.S. officials, in particular, appear determined to make clear that tougher action against Iran should not be seen solely as "made in America" but rather as the collective will of other countries involved in the effort to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

In his comments Friday, Obama took a strikingly less strident tone than either Sarkozy or British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, suggesting a deliberate strategy to entice Russia and China -- skeptics of sanctions.

Obama said that since the start of his administration, he has argued that "by keeping the path of diplomacy open, that would actually strengthen world unity and our collective efforts to then hold Iran accountable.

"I think you're starting to see the product of that strategy unfold during the course of this week," he told reporters.


I remain skeptical of Obama's strategy for dealing with Iran. The problem is a collective lack of will in taking the measures needed to stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. Iran has already lined up partners to help it evade the rather weak sanctions that have been suggested if she does not stop her program. Is there a will to go after Venezuela and Ecuador who are offering to launder money and provide her with the gas she needs.


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