What Part Of ‘Without Preconditions’ Don’t You Get?

Even though I have very little sympathy for their “Ahmadinejad won, get over it” theory of the Iranian presidential election, which has aged about as well as Joe Walsh, I think Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett’s op-ed raises some interesting and valid points in regard to possible outcomes of U.S.-Iran talks. But this bit is just stone nonsense:

Because President Obama assembled a national security team that, for the most part, did not share his early vision for American-Iranian rapprochement, his administration never built a strong public case for engagement. The prospect of engagement is still treated largely as a channel for “rewarding” positive Iranian actions and “punishing” problematic behavior — precisely what Mr. Obama, as a presidential candidate, criticized so eloquently about President George W. Bush’s approach.

What part of “without preconditions” do the Leveretts not understand? As a candidate, Obama promised to do this, and weathered a storm of criticism, only to see the idea find broad acceptance in the foreign policy community by the final days of the presidential campaign. The Obama administration is now preparing to sit down with the Iranians, having accepted — rightly, in my view — an Iranian counter-proposal that amounted to little more than an RSVP. All the while, Iran’s nuclear program has continued, as has its support for terrorism and incitement against Israel.

The Leveretts seem to be suggesting that the only way for the Obama administration to demonstrate good faith going into these negotiations is to avoid expressing any and all U.S. and international concerns about Iranian behavior. This is not going to happen, and, frankly, I think the Iranians are savvy enough not to expect it to happen.

As for this:

Unfortunately, the Obama administration was enticed by the prospect of regime-toppling instability in the aftermath of Iran’s presidential election this summer. But compared to past upheavals in the Islamic Republic’s 30-year history — the forced exile of a president, the assassination of another, the eight-year war with Iraq and the precipitous replacement of Ayatollah Khomeini’s first designated successor, Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, with Ayatollah Khamenei — the controversy over this year’s election was hardly a cataclysmic event.

I suppose it’s helpful in terms of balance to see someone making the reverse of Robert Kagan’s silly argument that President Obama was “siding with the Iranian regime” against the election demonstrators, but this is the first time I’ve read an analysis of the recent post-election controversy — which saw, among other things, a substantial portion of the Iranian clerical establishment break with the regime — as anything less than a pivotal moment for the Islamic Republic.