Monday, June 22, 2009

Obama Iran Hopes Dashed

From Fox News:
The chaos in Iran stemming from last week's disputed election may ultimately crush any hopes the Obama administration has for engaging the country in the near term, insiders and analysts warned.
Since taking office, President Obama has tried to reach out to the Iranian public and government, declaring that he's willing to engage any regime that will "unclench" its fist -- Iran was a primary target of that message.
But while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acted unreceptive to the overture before, the government is behaving flat-out hostile now that the U.S. administration is criticizing the Iranian regime for its crackdown of pro-reform demonstrators. And analysts warn that regardless of Ahmadinejad's stance, Obama may want to reconsider his engagement aims since Ahmadinejad's legitimacy as president has been thrown into question.
Barring a regime change, the restoration of U.S.-Iran ties looks very much in doubt, analysts say.
"This is obviously the wrong time to be sitting across the table from representatives of this government, let alone offering them incentives," said Kristen Silverberg, former U.S. ambassador to the European Union. "I think that anything like that right now could really take the wind out of the sails of this reform movement. This is really the wrong time," she said.
Silverberg said Obama should "revisit" his engagement goals and instead talk with European allies about tightening sanctions against the regime.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., on Sunday accused Obama of "stubbornly" holding onto the belief that negotiations with the current regime are the best way forward.
But U.S. officials privately concede that the turmoil in Iran has created an irrevocable setback for engagement.
Observers see the nail in the diplomatic coffin as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's hard-line speech Friday, in which he demanded opposition leaders end protests or be held to account for "bloodshed and chaos" -- U.S. officials viewed that address as "stunning" in its stridency and authoritarianism.

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