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Iran's Preconditions

11:17 AM, Dec 8, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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From yesterday's Meet the Press:

MR. BROKAW: ... What are the circumstances under which you would open a dialogue with Iran?

PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, I've said before, I think we need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran, making very clear to them that their development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, that their funding of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, their threats against Israel are contrary to everything that we believe in and what the international community should accept, and present a set of carrots and sticks in, in changing their calculus about how they want to operate. You know, in terms of carrots, I think that we can provide economic incentives that would be helpful to a country that, despite being a net oil producer, is under enormous strain, huge inflation, a lot of unemployment problems there. They could benefit from a more open economy and, and being part of the international economic system. But we also have to focus on the sticks, and one of the main things that diplomacy can accomplish is to help knit together the kind of coalition with China and India and Russia and other countries that now do business with Iran to agree that, in order for us to change Iran's behavior, we may have to tighten up those sanctions. But we are willing to talk to them directly and give them a clear choice and, and ultimately let them make a determination in terms of whether they want to do this the hard way or, or the easy way.

Obama may have backtracked from his absurd pledge to meet the leaders of Iran directly and without precondition in the first year of his administration, but he continues to insist on opening a dialogue with the Iranian regime -- a policy he will, in fact, inherit from the Bush administration. The Bush administration has made considerable effort to engage Iran, effectively dropping the precondition that Iran halt uranium enrichment prior to any direct diplomacy. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns carried a generous offer of incentives to Iranian officials in Switzerland this summer. The offer was rejected. Perhaps Obama will send his Secretary of State to make a similar appeal, and as a signal of his commitment to a diplomatic solution. But Iran has laid down its own preconditions:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said on Monday that the 'carrot and stick' has been a defeated and unacceptable approach.

Talking to reporters, he made the remarks in response to a question on recent remarks made by the US president-elect Barack Obama, who said Washington was ready to negotiate with Tehran on suspension of enrichment.

He added, "Tehran's stand is the same as before, that is if they (US administration) want suspension, we have repeatedly announced that we will not suspend (enrichment activities)."

So what now?