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September 25, 2009

Obama's Iran Test -- Sequencing Negotiations and Sanctions
Posted by David Shorr

I just finished listening to President Obama here at the conclusion of the G-20 summit, which dovetailed nicely with a Peter Feaver post on Iran over on Shadow Government. Full credit to Peter for being very crafty. Deep within a respectful analysis acknowledging that Obama may indeed have a serious strategy for how to deal with Iran, Feaver lays an obvious trap.

His key point is to differentiate between negotiations as a means to an end or as an end in themselves. Fair point, some people do place such faith in the power of diplomacy that they believe talks will yield a solution even when they show no real signs of progress -- though I doubt if any such people work in the Obama administration. Apparently, Feaver's view of negotiations as a means of halting Iran's nuclear program means not actually trying to negotiate. He says that if Obama truly sees negotiations as a means he will:

consider delaying (not abandoning) the direct talks with the Iranian regime until those sanctions have been imposed.

So then, after the revelation of the undisclosed site, Russian expression of openness to sanctions, illegitimacy of the government after elections, we still lack sufficient leverage to enter negotiations? Really? President Obama sees it the other way around. Here in Pittsburgh he offered about ten variations on the theme of how giving Iran chances to show their intransigence only adds to international unity, and thereby to further pressure Iran. In terms of the sequence going forward, he said "When we see diplomacy not work, we'll be in a stronger position for sanctions."


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