If you look at the transcript of today’s Obama press conference, there are three words you won’t find: “tough, direct diplomacy.” Those words, you may recall, have been used by Obama throughout last year’s election and during his first few months in office to describe his approach to engaging Iran. But today, two things were apparent: 1) He is more forcefully condemning the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters and 2) He is starting to impose preconditions on engaging Iranian leaders.
“The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days,” Obama said at the outset of the press conference. “I strongly condemn these unjust actions.”
He went on to say of the protesters that, “Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.”
Asked how recent developments in Iran would affect his policy of talking to Iranians, Obama put the ball in the court of the Iranian leadership.
“We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage and become a part of international norms,” he said. “It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path. What we’ve been seeing over the last several days, and the last couple of weeks, obviously is not encouraging in terms of the path that this regime may choose to take.”
This is a very clear policy shift, and isn’t too far off from where the Bush administration was, at least during the second term. At the very minimum, the policy of engaging Iran is now in a holding pattern.