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A Nobel Clue to How Obama Will Deal With Iran Next Year?

Time is almost up for the Obama administration’s “dual-tracked” approach to Iran. As the Islamic Republic keeps rejecting the administration’s diplomatic outreach and moving forward with its nuclear program, the administration is primed to turn to the U.N. Security Council early next year to seek authorization for a program of multilateral sanctions enforced by Iran’s major trading partners. Perhaps if U.N. ambassador Susan Rice finds that to be an insurmountable challenge, President Obama will seek to assemble his own coalition to enforce a sanctions package. Either way, unless there’s a major breakthrough with Iran very shortly, this will be the path the administration will most likely — and most reluctantly — tread.

But notice a line at the toward the end of Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech about sanctions, coming in the context of a reflection on how to make human-rights guarantees meaningful. It carries with it a tantalizing hint about how diplomacy might proceed with Iran even if Obama wins a new sanctions package.

But I also know that sanctions without outreach – and condemnation without discussion – can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.

He never mentions Iran here. But that’s quite the blueprint for post-sanctions diplomacy.

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