Once Upon A Time, Barack Obama Pledged To Meet Unconditionally With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in 2008 | Barack Obama's Foreign Policy Platform — Comments (37) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Now . . . things are somehow different:
Barack Obama's original answer seemed crystal clear: last July, asked whether he would meet with the "leaders" of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea "without precondition," during his first year as president, he quickly answered yes.
"I would," Obama, D-Ill., said at the CNN/YouTube debate. "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."
Obama has not renounced his commitment to meet directly with the leaders of rogue nations, including Iran. But in recent weeks, his top aides and advisers have sought to add caveats to his promise, as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has made Obama's debate answer a central campaign issue.
The Obama campaign is now offering a more nuanced approach that would not necessarily include a presidential meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- and that stresses diplomatic work that would take place before any such meetings take place.
Asked about Obama's original statement Tuesday morning on CNN, former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., a top Obama adviser and supporter, said top-level meetings would not be immediate -- and would not happen without preliminary extensive diplomatic work.
"I would not say that we would meet unconditionally," said Daschle. "Of course, there are conditions that we [would] involve in preparation in getting ready for the diplomacy. ... 'Without precondition' simply means we wouldn't put obstacles in the way of discussing the differences between us. That's really what they're saying, what Barack is saying."
Susan Rice, a top Obama foreign policy adviser, said Monday that Obama's meetings with Iranian leaders might not include Ahmadinejad.
"He said he'd meet with the appropriate Iranian leaders. He hasn't named who that leader will be," Rice said on CNN. "It would be the appropriate Iranian leadership at the appropriate time -- not necessarily Ahmadinejad."
Uh-huh. To be sure, this is a much more responsible approach than the one that Obama initially took. But it is not at all the same approach and it will be most amusing to watch and listen to Obamaphiles who praised Obama's initial unconditionality now claim that his newfound caution is what should really garner hosannas.
Someone should call Obama on all of this. Why is it that he backed away from unconditional talks? What is this business about talking to "the appropriate Iranian leadership at the appropriate time"? And if Obama really believes that strong nations are willing to talk to their adversaries, why is he suddenly less willing to do so?