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* Missed messages on Iran  Robert Kagan

* Envoy Condemns US Officials' Irresponsible Comments on Iran  News Report

* 'Israel will be destroyed if it attacks Iran'  News Report

* Warning of long war if Israel attacks Iran  News Report

* Iran unlikely to halt nuclear program, secret letters show  News Report

* Iran denies Ahmadi-Nejad was attacked  News Report

* Sanctions set stage for a new push on Iran  News Report

* اطلاعیۀ آیت الله منتطری دربارۀ حرام بودن مقاومت در برابر رأی مردم  Ali Behrooz

* لیست اسامی با حروف فارسی، تا تاریخ 08/09/08  Ali Behrooz

* War of words, or words of war  Ali Behrooz

* Could Israel use submarines against Iran?  News Report

* Iran deplores UAE claim on 3 islands  News Report

* 'Iran will respond to any attack'  News Report

* Carter to meet Hamas leadership in Cairo  News Report

* No Peace Without Hamas  News Report

* Ahmadinejad again voices Sept. 11 doubts  News Report

* Clinton, Obama tackle Iran issue in debate  News Report

* Bomb kills at least 9 in Iran mosque  News Report

* Iran demands Israel stop force threats  News Report

* Ahmadinejad to dismiss 2 cabinet ministers in Iran  News Report

* Iran: Naval encounter routine check  News Report

* Tony Blair's Palestine  News Report

* Clinton attacks Obama and McCain over Iraq  News Report

* Reza Pahlavi: Leadership for Democracy in Iran  News Report

* Petraeus: Return to 'pre-surge' troop levels, then wait  News Report

* Blast rocks US complex in Sanaa  News Report

* Clashes in Nile Delta after strike aborted  News Report

* When a great power goes mad  News Report

* Iranians defy censor with bootleg DVDs  News Report

* Putin says Iran is no threat  News Report

* Creating a US-Iran Bridge  News Report

* Court removes PKK from terror funds list  News Report

* 12 militants wanted by Israel flee Palestinian jail in West Bank after fight  News Report

* Limiting Tehran’s Influence?  Ali Behrooz

* UAE detains ship as grip on Tehran tightens  News Report

* Iranian critic not guilty of espionage  News Report

* Israelis and Palestinians pledge to reach peace pact by end of 2008  News Report

* Conference in Qom focuses on Iran-US challenges  News Report

* FM spokesman: Iran's plan on Iraq not put for voting  News Report

* Iran's top dissident cleric calls for U.S. talks  News Report

* Islamic militants take fight against Musharraf to 'Pakistan's Switzerland'  News Report

* 'Desperate' Musharraf declares martial law  News Report

* US Sanctions on Iran Leave Europeans in a Quandary  Sir Cyril Townsend

* After Thamilselvan  News Report

* Analysis: Is Abbas playing his cards right ahead of ME summit?  News Report

* Bahrain accuses Iran of nuclear weapons lie  News Report

* Senior Tamil Tiger leader killed  News Report

* US declares PKK 'a common enemy'  News Report

* Iran urged to join Gulf nuclear deal  News Report

* Iran's leaders need enemies like Bush, and at every turn he obliges them  News Report

* Giuliani hits Democrats on Iran  News Report

* Iran: We have no information on Arad  News Report

* Clinton hails US move on Iran  News Report

* Israel to prepare for potential missile attack  News Report

* US First Lady in Kuwait  News Report

* Rice: Mideast solution in jeopardy  News Report

* Kurdish fighters defy the world from mountain fortress as bombing begins  News Report

* Protesters confront Condoleezza Rice as she testifies on Middle East  News Report

* Showdown With Iran  News Report

* U.S. outlines Baghdad security handover plan  News Report

* Poll shows global opposition to Iran - and U.S.  News Report

* Iraq promises Turkey it will curb Kurdish rebels  News Report

* Big shoes to fill  News Report

* LUKOIL says halts Iran oil project on US sanctions  News Report

* Three soldiers killed in Darfur camp attack - UN  News Report

* There's a better - and cheaper - way that Washington can help Lebanon  News Report

* Lebanese patience for Nahr al-Bared displaced wears thin  News Report

* Iran, Syria urge diplomatic means instead of military incursion into Iraq  News Report

* Talabani refuses to deliver PKK leaders to Turkey amid protests against incursion  News Report

* Turkey vows to defeat PKK rebels  News Report

* Iran N-case on Olmert's Paris agenda  News Report

* Motaki (FM): US in No Position to Attack Iran  News Report

* We will fight to the death, Kurdish rebel leader vows from his hideout  News Report

* Deaths And Hostages In Border Clash  News Report

* Flash News: Kurdish separatistand 12 Turkish soldiers killed  News Report

* IRGC Commander:Aggressions to Be Reciprocated with a Rain of Rockets  News Report

* 2 leaders back Blair as European Union president  News Report

* Babacan stresses dialogue as key to solving Lebanese crisis  News Report

* Jordan hopes for positive outcome of Annapolis meeting  News Report

* Iran's nuclear negotiator resigns  News Report

* Larijani Resigns  Ali Behrooz

* NATO says shipment of roadside bombs was 'from Iran'  News Report

* Israel impeding effort to clear cluster bombs  News Report

* Bhutto defiant over bomb attack  News Report

* Democrats' stance on Iran criticized  News Report

* Top Palestinian negotiator may resign  News Report

* UN condemns killing of its truck drivers in Darfur  News Report

* Kurds sign oil deals beyond regional borders – former minister  News Report

* Jerusalem is ours, warns Likud  News Report

* Rice back in Israel after Egypt talks  News Report

* Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane workers in southern Iran go on strike  News Report

* Ahmadinejad: Caspian states to form economic cooperation organization  News Report

* Putin lands in Iran for nuke talks  News Report

* Mideast Conference and the Illusive Peace  News Report

* Coalition of the Reluctant  News Report

* World bank neglects African farming, study says  News Report

* Putin dismisses threat of assassination in Iran  News Report

* Israel signals readiness to cede parts of Jerusalem to Palestinians  News Report

* Christiane Amanpour: 'People think I relax with a Kalashnikov - I don't'  News Report

* After honeymoon, Sarkozy method poses three risks  News Report


Missed messages on Iran
[ Robert Kagan]
[Source: The Washington Post - 06/08/10]


Obama's briefing on Iran: It's about pressure, not diplomacy

By Robert Kagan
Friday, August 6, 2010; A17

The White House called in a small group of journalists this week to listen to President Obama and his top advisers give a briefing on the state of the sanctions regime against Iran. Others at the meeting have described it as "unusual," but I don't know why. Its purpose couldn't have been clearer: The president and his team wanted to take some credit for all the difficult months of diplomacy that led to the passage of the U.N. sanctions resolution in June, especially the persistent cajoling of Russia and China. They also wanted to show just how tough the new sanctions are, especially with the European Union piling on in unprecedented fashion after the resolution passed. Without making any absurd predictions about the likelihood that the regime would now be persuaded to give up its quest for a nuclear bomb, they argued that the new sanctions would at least cause the regime significant pain.

What was striking was the president's sobriety about the issue, his evident pride in the global diplomatic efforts that produced the latest resolution and his determination to pressure the Tehran regime as much as possible. It was clear that he had no illusions about Iran. When he talked about his "engagement" strategy of the first year, it was not with wistful laments of what might have been or hope about future Iranian willingness to take up the offer to talk seriously about its nuclear program. Rather, Obama described it as a successful tactic in the effort to isolate and put pressure on the regime. By revealing to the world just how unserious the rulers in Tehran were about talks, by proving beyond a doubt that if there was an impasse in the U.S.-Iran relationship, the problem was not in Washington, he had set the stage for Iran's international isolation.

The president also expressed his belief that the sanctions are already starting to pinch the regime. What was interesting, however, was that he did not take this as a sign that there might now be a new opportunity for diplomacy. He and his advisers disparaged recent Iranian mumblings about resuming talks with the "P5-plus-1" (the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) as nothing new. And they displayed no eagerness to press for renewed talks or to make new dramatic gestures. The president went out of his way to note that the Iranians are masters of delay and deception. He explained in some detail why the deal Turkey and Brazil struck with Tehran was a nonstarter. He repeatedly acknowledged that the regime may be so "ideologically" committed to getting a bomb that no amount of pain would make a difference. He did make clear that the door was, of course, open to the Iranians to change their minds, that sanctions did not preclude diplomacy and engagement, and that if the Iranians ever decide they wanted to "behave responsibly" by complying with the demands of the international community, then the United States was prepared to welcome them.

It is here that this very straightforward briefing took a bizarre and amusing turn. Some of the journalists present, upon hearing the president's last point about the door still being open to Iran, decided that he was signaling a brand-new diplomatic initiative. They started peppering Obama with questions to ferret out exactly what "new" diplomatic actions he was talking about and, after the president left, they continued probing the senior officials. This put the officials in an awkward position: They didn't want to say flat out that the administration was not pursuing a new diplomatic initiative because this might suggest that the administration was not interested in diplomacy at all. But they made perfectly clear -- in a half-dozen artful formulations -- that, no, there was no new diplomatic initiative in the offing. As one bemused senior official later remarked to me, if the point of the briefing had been diplomacy, then the administration would have brought its top negotiators to the meeting, instead of all the people in charge of putting the squeeze on Iran. Some journalists nevertheless left with the impression that the big "news" out of their meeting with the president was a possible new round of diplomacy.

I left feeling sympathy for this and every administration. Apparently, even spoon-feeding doesn't work. The "news" out of this briefing was that the administration wanted everyone to know how tough it was being on Iran. I was especially struck by the remarks of a senior official, who pointed out that one effect of Iran's growing economic difficulties has been strikes in the bazaars. The student and opposition demonstrations of the past year have been political, but these protests are about economics. If the two ever join, this official suggested, that would pose a real threat to the regime. An interesting point -- though not to the assembled journalists.

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes a monthly column for The Post.

 





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