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Iran Burns, Obama Seeks More Engagement

11:38 PM, Dec 29, 2009 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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With President Barack Obama's year-end deadline to Iran just one day away, the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler reports that the Obama administration is preparing "targeted sanctions" on Iran. But with an asterisk.

Ten months after President Obama set a year-end deadline for Iran to engage with world powers on its nuclear program, the government in Tehran has failed to respond in kind, other than an abortive gesture in the fall.

Now, in what may be a difficult balancing act, officials say the administration wants to carefully target sanctions to avoid alienating the Iranian public -- while keeping the door ajar to a resolution of the struggle over Iran's nuclear program. The aim of any sanctions is to force the Tehran government to the negotiating table, rather than to punish it for either its apparent push to develop a nuclear weapon or its treatment of its people.

So the year-end deadline for engagement is upon us and the Obama administration is carefully crafting sanctions to force...engagement.

The Iranian regime -- fragile now as never before -- continues to support terrorism, to kill US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, to enrich uranium and to arrest and murder its own citizens. And the goal of US policy continues to be non-punitive engagement? Shameful.

Now, the Iranians are reporting that Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and shadow Secretary of State, has officially requested to visit Tehran. As Mike Goldfarb notes, there are many reasons to be skeptical of such reports from a regime in turmoil. But neither Kerry's office nor the White House has directly denied the reports -- something that would have been easy enough to do if the claims were untrue.

Is it the case that the Obama administration, rather than pivoting to the confrontational posture that Iran's intransigence requires, is simply preparing a more aggressive outreach campaign? It won't work.

As Hillary Clinton, the real Secretary of State, said on December 14: "I don't think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of a positive response from the Iranians."

Even senior Obama officials understand that engagement hasn't worked. Why is it still the goal?