A Significant Admission

Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has directed enrichment of a portion of that country’s stockpile of uranium to 20 percent. Experts regard this as an important step forward for Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The reaction of Defense Secretary Robert Gates seems significant:

At a news conference with French Defense Minister Herve Morin, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates praised President Barack Obama’s attempts to engage the Islamic Republic diplomatically and chided Tehran for not reciprocating.
“No U.S. president has reached out more sincerely, and frankly taken more political risk, in an effort to try to create an opening for engagement for Iran,” he said. “All these initiatives have been rejected.”

So Gates was, evidently, praising Obama for pursuing a policy that has been, by the Secretary’s own admission, a complete failure. The stern action now being contemplated by the administration consists of new sanctions. the AP concludes its account in a realistic vein:

Iran has defied five U.N. Security Council resolutions–and three sets of U.N. sanctions–aimed at pressuring it to freeze enrichment, and has instead steadily expanded its program.

Iran’s Fars News Agency, independent but closely allied with Ahmadinejad’s government, gives a semi-official response to the sanctions threat:

Sanctions against Iran have encouraged Tehran to expand and reinvigorate its nuclear technology, a prominent Iranian legislator said on Monday, warning that those states supporting and imposing sanctions on Iran will have to face grave consequences of their actions in future. …
“Even some pragmatics who oppose Iran’s progress in the nuclear field are now arguing for the recognition of Iran as a nuclear power and start of interaction with Tehran based on this very reality,” [Heshmatollah] Falahatpisheh added.
Referring to the US officials’ attempts to integrate accusations against Iran in a bid to continue the sanctions policy against the country, he reiterated that Iran’s achievements have shown that the country’s nuclear program has now reached the point of no return and the western states should accept this reality.

The Iran problem is a knotty one to which there is no attractive solution. But can we at least agree that President Obama’s much-ballyhooed policy of “engagement” has been an utter failure?

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