A little over a week after President Obama offered a “new beginning” in US-Iran relations in what was seen at the time to be a significant diplomatic overture, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has insisted that he prefers economic sanctions against the nation to diplomatic initiatives.
America has already placed a massive level of sanctions on the Iranians, and has struggled to get international support for additional sanctions given the paucity of evidence of any Iranian wrongdoing. Indeed, while Gates spoke vaguely of Iran “clandestinely” building enrichment capacity, he conceded once against that Iran was not enriching uranium beyond the low levels needed for the soon-to-be-completed Bushehr power plant.
Iran’s state-run media has portrayed the comments as evidence of a “schism” between the secretary and the White House, yet President Obama has alternated between bellicose accusations and vague conciliatory statements in his own Iran policy, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has previous said the administration doesn’t expect diplomacy to work with Iran. In that light, it seems that Gates’ comments are right in the wheelhouse of America’s current foreign policy position, if expressed quite a bit more frankly than has been recently the case.