Going It Alone on Iran

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, October 26, 2007; 1:44 PM

Unilateralism is "in" again at the White House. Yesterday's announcement of far-reaching sanctions against Iran signified that President Bush has given up on multilateral diplomacy with Tehran. He's back to going his own way.

The big question, of course, is which way is that? Should yesterday's move be interpreted as an urgent attempt to resolve matters without violence -- or as a buildup to war?

Here's a hint: Underlying yesterday's move is an obvious lack of patience. That bolsters the theory that Bush is determined not to leave the Iranian nuclear issue unresolved when he leaves office. True diplomacy, however, requires patience.

Here's another hint: The Bush administration still refuses to meet with Iranian leaders face to face. True diplomacy requires a willingness to talk.

The White House maintains it is still devoted to diplomacy, but we've heard that before. And without patience or dialogue, "diplomacy" isn't really diplomacy -- it's a charade.

The Coverage

Warren P. Strobel and Kevin G. Hall write for McClatchy Newspapers: "For more than two years, the United States has insisted that the key to stopping Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program is maintaining unified international pressure on the Islamic Republic.

"But on Thursday, the Bush administration signaled in no uncertain terms that it's prepared to go its own way in confronting what it considers to be a growing threat from Iran, even if doing so demolishes an increasingly shaky global consensus."

Strobel and Hall point out there was immediate criticism even from within Bush's own party.

"'Unilateral sanctions rarely ever work,' Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a foreign policy moderate, said during his weekly news conference. 'I just don't think the unilateral approach and giving war speeches helps the situation. It will just drive the Iranians closer together.'

"It also 'escalates the danger of a military confrontation,' Hagel said."

Helene Cooper writes in the New York Times that "after 18 months in which the administration has touted the virtues of collective action against Iran by the United States and its allies, the sanctions are a major turn toward unilateralism.

"The shift represents a tacit acknowledgment that the diplomatic strategy pressed most vigorously by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been ineffective."

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