James provides this video from campaign '07, where candidate Obama was asked if he'd "be willing to meet separately, without preconditions, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries":
I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them– which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration– is ridiculous.James links to his essay at the New Atlanticist, "Negotiating with Iran Without Preconditions." And he notes:
Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.
Atlantic senior editor Andrew Sullivan has a short post up titled "No Recognition of Ahmadinejad" in which he asserts, "This is the first and absolute requirement of all Western governments. The disgusting visuals of Medvedev and Ahmadinejad yesterday must not be repeated."I'd note first that while perhaps Sullivan might have been an "Obamacon" last year, he's now a well-established spokesman for the gay-radical nihilist base of the Democratic Party.
But Sullivan was one of the most prominent Obamacons, conservatives who nonetheless supported Barack Obama in last year's election for a variety of reasons, articulated superbly on his blog and in a December 2007 cover story in his magazine called "Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters." Obama could not have been more clear on this issue. Who can forget this moment from the July 24, 2007 Democratic debate?
In any case, it's clear, as James notes, that President Obama's assertion that he "will pursue tough, direct diplomacy without preconditions to end the threat from Iran" remains the position of the administration.
Here's this morning's statement from the administration, from Jake Tapper:
President Obama argued yesterday that there is little different between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi on policies critical to the U.S.Read the whole thing. Actually, according to Tapper:
“It's important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, that the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised,” the president told CNBC. “Either way, we were going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons. And so we've got long-term interests in having them not weaponize nuclear power and stop funding organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. And that would be true whoever came out on top in this election.”
... there do seem some key differences on other issues. For one, Mousavi seems far more willing to engage with the West.Bottom line?
Mousavi has expressed a desire for more openness. "An approach that runs on the basis of 'keeping the influx of changes at bay' will irrefutably bring about the closure of newspapers, limitations on freedom in society and public detachment from national-religious leadership," he has said. "On the contrary, an approach that moves toward the recognition of changes, upholds values like sovereignty, liberty as well as peace. Such an approach would produce the right conditions for changes in the society and enable us to make the most of our opportunities.”
Well, Sullivan's all messed up! Who knows what position he's advocating from moment to moment? But more importantly, is Barack Obama for real? As his homepage indicates:
Obama supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama and Biden would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.As James notes at his essay:
Should Obama now be willing to sit down with Iran's leadership to discuss interests vital to us both only on the rather stringent precondition that the mullah's oust Ahmadinejad? That would fly in the fact of his entire foreign policy platform.See all the debate at Memeorandum.
Hat Tip: Glenn Reynolds.