THE SPINE AUGUST 10, 2009
Iran was at the core of Barack Obama's "talk with our enemies" policy. No, he did not call Iran or any of our other enemies "enemies." Indeed, the very idea of "enemy" seemed to be more than a bit repugnant to him, both to the presidential candidate, that is, and the president. I recall myself--perhaps once or twice during the campaign--giving Obama some slack on the matter. It couldn't hurt, could it? Well, at least not very much.
But Obama has now been in office for half a year, and he realized already a while back that his stratagem for engaging Tehran in nuclear talks was not working. He put September as some sort of a deadline without, of course, saying what would come after. And what, by the way, would come after?
Yesterday, as reported by several news agencies including Ha'aretz, Secretary Clinton alluded to the president's zero hour in a CNN interview and asserted that we would not wait much longer for Tehran to respond. There is much bravado in the claim that we are running out of patience with the Iranians.
This is because, as the same dispatch tells us, General James Jones, Obama's national security adviser, asserted that we have little choice but to deal with President Ahmadinejad's government since he was, in fact, re-elected. Hillary was quite cool on this matter, as well.
As, if you remember, was Obama's press counsel, Robert Gibbs. Gibbs then apologized but without changing his cool.
There are now three American hikers being held in Iran for straying across the border from Kurdish Iraq. Perhaps the secretary of state can orchestrate a second photo-op for her husband with Dr. A'jad and arrange for the release of the footsloggers. Don't get me wrong: that would be a good thing, too. But, as with Bill Clinton's diplomatic encounter in Pyongyang, it wouldn't affect the Iranians' nuclear ambitions.
So after September what?
Yes, we'll go back to the Security Council and try to persuade the other four permanent members (which really means Russia and China, who are prone to do nothing) and Germany to strengthen the sanctions regime. Which, I suspect, they won't do.
In the meantime, the U.S. is urging patience. But, then, America hasn't gone as far as it could on its own.