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Our Message to Iran

“You may say I’m a dreamer,” Jeffrey Goldberg wrote last week, urging one more attempt to talk to Iran. He’s a dreamer, but he’s not the only one. Trita Parsi, writing in the Washington Post, thinks we could get by “with a little help from [our] friends” (he names Norway, Sweden, South Africa, Oman and Qatar), whom he thinks we could ask to talk to Iran to ask Iran to talk to us.

Last week, after the IAEA confirmed that Iran is enriching uranium at its underground facility in Qom, Hillary Clinton issued a press release urging Iran to join talks to “restore confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature” of its nuclear program. It is all right out of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

As it happens, President Obama will be speaking to Iran next week, since Iran will hear his third State of the Union Address. Two years ago, he said that “as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations,” they would “face growing consequences” – punctuating his remark with a direct statement: “That is a promise.” Last year, after less-than-crippling sanctions were imposed, he devoted a single sentence to Iran, simply noting that “tougher” and “tighter” sanctions had been imposed; he made no promise of growing consequences if they did not work.

Next Tuesday, if he wants to get Iran’s attention, he will need to say something like this:

We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon –everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon–everything.

That is what he told 7,000 people in 2008, in prepared remarks, at a crucial moment in his presidential campaign — repeating “everything” three times. If he really wants Iran to cease its quest for nuclear weapons, he will have to make clear, as president, in a forum where he knows Iran will be listening, what he promises to do if they don’t.

But as Iran enters its fourth year of ignoring his outstretched hand, he has lobbied Congress to water down additional sanctions, insisted they be delayed for at least six months, warned Israel over and over not to strike Iran, assured Iran we had nothing to do with killing its nuclear scientist, and stayed silent on Qom while his secretary of state satisfied herself with a press release. The message to Iran has been pretty clear.



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