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Obama to create Iran outreach post
Question of the Day
The incoming Obama administration plans to create a new position to coordinate outreach to Iran and is considering a number of senior career diplomats, State Department officials and Iran specialists say.
President-elect Barack Obama promised during his campaign to seek dialogue with Iran without preconditions in an effort to persuade Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment program, but also has pledged to toughen sanctions.
A State Department official said the idea of naming a senior Iranian outreach coordinator was broached in the first transition meetings with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s choice for secretary of state, and her transition team earlier this month.
“The idea is that the position should build on the existing diplomatic framework,” the official said. He asked not to be named because a nominee has not been announced.
A spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton declined to comment for this article. Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for the transition, also would not comment.
However, several Iran specialists said such a position was in the works.
“There is every indication that they are seriously considering going this way,” said Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a group that has warned of the dangers of Iranian proliferation.
Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, an organization that supports U.S.-Iran dialogue, said that a special envoy position for Iran is planned.
The current administration has refused to negotiate with Iran unless Tehran first suspends its uranium enrichment program. However, in July, Undersecretary of State William Burns attended a meeting in Geneva with an Iranian nuclear negotiator along with senior diplomats from the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, France, China and Russia - plus Germany.
The “P-5 plus 1” has sent envoys to Tehran and drafted three U.N. Security Council resolutions that have sanctioned organizations and individuals affiliated with the Iranian nuclear program.
However, Iran has refused to suspend its program. Indeed, two days after the Geneva talks, the head of Iran´s Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, announced the testing of an anti-ship missile he said could close the Straits of Hormuz, the chokepoint for 40 percent of the world’s oil supplies .
Critics of engagement doubt that Tehran will agree to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for economic and diplomatic concessions.
“We’ve lost the [nuclear] race with Iran,” said John R. Bolton, a former undersecretary of state and U.N. ambassador.
Others say the United States has not tried hard enough.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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