Obama Administration’s ‘Window’ With Iran Has Been Closing for More Than Three Years

October 30, 2012 - 10:00 PM

Clinton in Sarajevo

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton briefs reporters after discussing Iran and other matters with European Union foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton, in Sarajevo, Bosnia on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the “window” of opportunity to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff diplomatically “cannot remain open indefinitely.” She was reiterating a warning that the Obama administration has repeated dozens of times over the past three years.

“Our message to Iran is clear,” Clinton said alongside European Union foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton in Sarajevo. “The window remains open to resolve the international community’s concerns about your nuclear program diplomatically and to relieve your isolation, but that window cannot remain open indefinitely.”

Two talking points that have characterized the administration’s statements regarding Iran’s nuclear activities refer to the closing “window,” and the assertion that time and U.S. patience are “not unlimited.”

Since President Obama more than three years ago advised Tehran that “our patience is not unlimited” and Clinton declared that “the opportunity will not remain open indefinitely” and warned “we are not going to keep the window open forever,” they and other administration officials have repeated the two phrases multiple times.

Meanwhile Iran has increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) more than eight-fold, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Natanz visit

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, some 200 miles south of Tehran, in this file picture. (AP Photo)

Two months before Obama took office in January 2009, the IAEA said it verified a LEU supply of 839 kilograms. By September 2009, that had grown by 591 kilograms, for a total of 1,430 kilograms. In its most recent report, early last month, the IAEA said Iran’s LEU holdings have now reached 6,876 kilograms.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security says that 6,876 kilograms of LEU, “if further enriched to weapon grade, is enough to make over six nuclear weapons.”

“We are now running out of time with respect to that [diplomatic] approach,” Obama said in Singapore on November 15, 2009, and a State Department spokesman added two weeks later, “The president has said that our patience is not unlimited.”

Fast forward more than two years, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, asked at a February 28 briefing when the window with Iran would close, said he would not give “a specific date.”

“[W]e believe there is time and space to pursue a diplomatic path, a path that intensifies the sanctions, intensifies the isolation, and attempts, through unified international action, to get the Iranian regime to change its behavior,” he said.

At a March 6 press conference, Obama said, “At this stage, it is my belief that we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically. That’s not just my view. That’s the view of our top intelligence officials; It’s the view of top Israeli intelligence officials.”

A week later, Obama said alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron that “the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.”

The message was repeated on March 26 by deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, briefing reporters in South Korea: “We made clear that there is time and space for diplomacy, but people also have to understand that that time is not unlimited.”

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Natanz

Ahmadinejad inspects uranium enrichment equipment at Natanz. (AP Photo/Iranian President's Office, File)

‘The clock is ticking’

Other appearances of the two phrases this year include:

--“Iran’s window to seek and obtain a peaceful resolution will not remain open forever,” – Clinton, in Riyadh, Mar. 31.

--“Our government has made clear publicly and privately that we believe there is time and space for diplomacy, though that time is not unlimited,” – undersecretary of state Wendy Sherman, in New Delhi, Apr. 2.

--“[T]he diplomatic window for negotiations is open but will not remain open forever,” – Clinton, in Washington, Apr. 12.

--“[A]s the president has said, we do believe there’s time and space for diplomacy, but it’s not unlimited,” – Rhodes, briefing reporters on Air Force One, Apr. 13.

--“[W]e have communicated – we, the United States along with Israel – that there needs to be a sense of urgency, that there is a time and space that exists now for diplomacy but it’s not unlimited,” – Rhodes, briefing reporters in Cartagena, Colombia, Apr. 14.

--“Now, the clock is ticking. And I’ve been very clear to Iran and to our negotiating partners that we’re not going to have these talks just drag out in a stalling process,” – Obama, in Cartagena, Apr. 15.

--“[T]he policy of this administration has been that there is still a window – a shrinking window, but still a window nonetheless – for a diplomatic solution …” – White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, Jul. 30.

--“There is time and space to pursue this diplomatic option, even as we make clear that there is not unlimited time and space, and as we make clear that all options remain on the table,” – Carney, Aug. 1.

--“[F]rom our point of view, the window is still open to try to work towards a diplomatic solution,” – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Aug. 14.

--“While there is time and space, we believe, for the diplomatic course to be pursued in conjunction with increasingly stringent sanctions that are already the most stringent ever in history, we know, too, that there is not unlimited time,” – Carney, briefing on a campaign bus in Iowa, Aug. 15.

--“[W]e continue to press our dual-track approach, which includes these very strong measures, but also includes a window for diplomacy, which we’ve said continues to be open but will not be open indefinitely,” – State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, Aug. 30.

--“[W]e’ve also made clear that the window of opportunity for reaching a solution by that means [diplomacy and sanctions] will not remain open indefinitely, and that the president retains all options on the table in the pursuit of his commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” – Carney, Sept. 10.

--“[W]e’re not naive. This is not – there is not an open-ended window for pressure and diplomacy to succeed,” – ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, Sept. 12.

--“The president has also made clear that the window of opportunity to resolve this diplomatically will not remain open indefinitely,” – Carney, Sept. 12.

--“So we think that there's still considerable time for this pressure to work. But this is not an infinite window,” – Rice, on CNN, Sept. 16.

--“The window is not infinite, but let’s be clear, the sanctions that – that are now in place reached their high point in July,” – Rice, on NBC, Sept. 16.

--“As he has said, the president believes that the window of opportunity for a diplomatic resolution to this matter will not remain open indefinitely,” – Carney, Sept. 24.

--“So let me be clear. America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited,” – Obama, addressing the United Nations, Sept. 25.

--“We believe there is still time and space to do so, but that time is not unlimited,” – Clinton, New York City, Sept. 27.

--“The president has also made clear that we believe there's time and space for diplomacy, but that time is not unlimited,” – deputy secretary of state William Burns, Al-Jazeera interview, Oct. 2.

--“[T]he time is not unlimited and the window will not remain open forever,” – Carney, Oct. 2.