This emphasis on conciliation is, to put it mildly, odd given that it came at a press conference expressly called to read the riot act to a regime that had been caught for the third time illicitly constructing a nuclear facility that Mr Obama baldly defined as “inconsistent with a peaceful programme”.
It was left to President Sarkozy to tell it like it is: that confidence in Iran’s rulers is zero; that the menace they pose is global; and that “we cannot let the Iranian leaders play for time while the centrifuges are spinning”. But after years of playing Europe like a harp, Iran is not listening to Paris; the regime has ears only for the Great Satan. And the GS, Obama version, is approaching Iran as tentatively as if the Islamic republic held all the thunderbolts.
This would be bad psychology at any juncture and is inexplicable when Iran’s dreadful duo, the Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his protégé, President Ahmadinejad, are on the back foot and, for all their ferocious retribution against the swelling multitude of their critics, perceptibly wobbling.
More on France here: Cheeseburger Eating Surrender Monkeys and here: Sarkozy Sees Obama As Incredibly Naive & Grossly Egotistical. But back to Rosemary:
There are three points of pressure: the first is to exploit the regime’s collapsed credibility.
Dot dot dot.
The second pressure point is to take Iran’s professed desire for comprehensive talks literally and put everything on the table: the regime’s terrible human rights record as well as its nuclear cheating. Mr Obama’s instinct has been to be awfully restrained about the first, so as not to prejudice progress on the second.
He has it precisely backwards. The worst message to project to Iranians is that if their rulers will only make some gesture such as suspending uranium enrichment, they can go on beating political prisoners and hanging homosexuals from cranes for all that the rest of the world cares.
Let us not forget the meeting point of those two examples: what they do to the political prisoners! (I have to stop reading the news.)
The third secret of success is US firmness on other fronts. Recent history is instructive. In 2001, awed by the swift ousting of the Taleban in Afghanistan and aware that the US had Iraq in its sights, Iran dispatched senior Revolutionary Guard officers to negotiations that extended even to its funding of Hezbollah and Hamas.
In 2003, still more awed by the US campaign in Iraq, it stopped enriching uranium and suspended its weaponisation programme. Once the US appeared bogged down in Iraq and the Taleban started to come back, Iran got back down to nuclear work.
Any regime will co-operate if its interests are on the line. Sanctions will help, particularly if they hit the elite’s wealth and the Revolutionary Guards’ business empires, but not imported petrol bought by the poor. The military option should not be publicly swept from the table — as happens almost daily in Washington.