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On January 20th, 2009 President Obama and his administration will be taking the reins of foreign policy, including the United States’ relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Recent appointments and statements by Obama and his transition team offer some clues as to what to expect from the next administration.

The first significant development is President-elect Obama’s announcement of his foreign policy and national security team on Monday, December 1st.  His selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is certainly interesting. During the the primary season, Senator Clinton tried to portray herself as being tougher on Iran than Obama.  She even went so far as to suggest that if Iran should “foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel”, the U.S. “would be able to totally obliterate them”.  Senator Clinton was also criticized by some Congressional Democrats for her support for a resolution labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. She has also, however, expressed support for diplomatic options, stating in 2007 that if elected President she would open a “diplomatic track” to discern “what levers of power in their society we might be able to pull and push”.

Overall, Senator Clinton’s stance toward Iran is characterized by the belief that the U.S. must “use every tool at our disposal, including diplomatic and economic in addition to the threat and use of military force”.  While I am pleased to see that our new Secretary of State is ready to use a variety of methods, including diplomacy, in dealing with Iran, it worries me that she considers the threat of violence to be an equally effective foreign policy tool.  Of course the United States must be prepared to use force to protect itself and its allies, but the militaristic threats and gesturing that have characterized the Bush administration’s approach to relations with Iran have gotten us nowhere.  I hope that as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be ready to tone down the rhetoric and use diplomatic and economic tools before resorting to threats and violence.

President-elect Obama himself has also spoken about the strategies that his administration will pursue with Iran.  Today while appearing on Meet the Press Obama articulated a carrot and stick approach that will include diplomatic engagement and the possibility of economic sanctions.  For more on Obama’s plan and the thoughts of other analysts, continue reading. Read the rest of this entry »

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