Obama said in a media interview broadcast on Sunday that the U.S. should “ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy” with Iran, offering the carrot of “economic incentives” or the “stick” of tougher sanctions to get Iran to change its behavior.
Obama said he is willing to talk to Iran directly and “give them a clear choice” and ultimately let Iran determine whether “they want to do this the hard way or the easy way,” Obama said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Iran was ready with its response. “Iran will never suspend its nuclear activities and expects the United States to change its carrot and stick approach with the aim of settling its dispute with Tehran,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hassan Qashqavi was quoted telling reporters on Monday.
“When they [the Americans] stick to their old opinion regarding the suspension of uranium enrichment, our answer will be: Iran will never suspend uranium enrichment,” Iran’s Press TV quoted Qashqavi as saying.
The U.S., Israel, and the Western world believe that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program to secretly develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies it and so far has defied United Nations sanctions aimed at halting its uranium enrichment program, which can be used for nuclear fuel or to build an atomic bomb.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Sunday advised Obama to revise the White House’s international and regional policies, including those relating to Iran.
During the last 30 years, the U.S. stance against Iran has been hostile, Mottaki was quoted as saying by the Iranian news agency IRNA.
Israel has been concerned about Obama’s willingness to talk to Iran. The day after the U.S. election, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed concern about the policy, saying that idea of imposing sanctions and then shifting to dialogue “is liable to be interpreted as weakness.”
Prof. Barry Rubin from the GLORIA Center in Herzilya said that Obama’s approach towards Iran, whether or not he dialogues with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could not be expected to be any tougher than the policy of the current administration.
That would have the “predictable effect,” Rubin said earlier, of allowing Iran to push forward on its nuclear development program with less concern about the consequences.