The Jerusalem Post is reporting that we’re about to see a major shift in American policy toward Iran:
The United States is laying the groundwork for sanctions against Iran after having become increasingly disenchanted with the strategy of engagement, two senior administration officials told Jewish leaders in Washington on Thursday.
William Burns, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said the Obama administration wants to prepare for sanctions now, so that it will be ready to implement them at the end of the year if it comes to that, and not have to start from scratch at that point.
Top White House Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, appearing beside Burns at the panel discussion with the Jewish leaders, explained that the administration’s focus on diplomatic engagement had shifted following the Iranian elections, and indicated that the White House now had a more skeptical view of that approach which could give way to sanctions.
US President Barack Obama has long backed diplomatic outreach, though he has also warned of the possible need for sanctions and referred to keeping “all options on the table.”
He has given Teheran a deadline of September 24, when the G-20 nations will next convene, to evaluate Iran’s response to his offers of engagement. Top officials have spoken of imposing “crippling sanctions” should diplomacy fail, though that hasn’t been fleshed out.
Ross argued on Thursday that having made an effort at engagement, the US was in a better position to work with other members of the international community to enact multilateral sanctions. He also stressed that the door continues to remain open to Iran should it opt for serious negotiations.
The speakers, addressing an off-the-record forum of more than 300 Jewish activists in Washington to press for action on Iran, pointed to a wide menu of sanctions options beyond the narrower targeting of Iran’s refined petroleum imports proposed in bills before Congress. The White House and State Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for confirmation of the two officials’ comments.
Things are going to get very interesting in the Middle East in the next few months.