"Time is running out for Iran": A History

Daniella Zalcman (Wikimedia Commons)

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  • #Obama says time is short for diplomacy towards #Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but is that true? Let’s look at history

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  • Is the time for diplomacy “not infinite”? Are we genuinely “running out of time”? @dpletka

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  • Are we honestly “determined to stop them”? History would suggest otherwise. And why would the #Iranians believe us now?

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Talks aimed at resolving the Iranian nuclear weapons threat will again resume this Friday. In Seoul late last month, the President reminded Iran that it must act with “‘urgency.” “There is time to solve this diplomatically,” Obama enthused. “It is always my preference to solve these issues diplomatically. But time is short.”

But is it really short?  Let’s take a quick run through history with our friend Google and see:

1995: “We view Iran’s action as a major threat to United States interests and international security, and we are determined to stop them.”–Clinton Secretary of State Warren Christopher

2006  “So far, the Iranian regime has responded with further defiance and delay. It is time for Iran to make a choice. We’ve made our choice: We will continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution — but there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”–President George W. Bush

2007 “The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences,”–Vice President Dick Cheney

2009: “Unfortunately, so far at least, Iran appears to have been unable to say yes to what everyone acknowledges is a creative and constructive approach […] We are running out of time with respect to that approach.”–President Barack Obama

2009: “The choice is clear. We remain ready to engage with Iran, but the time for action is now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely.”–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

2009  ”By the end of the year we should be able to ascertain what Iran’s true colors are on this, and the end of the year is coming […] We’re still hopeful. The door is still open, but the window is closing.”–National Security Adviser Jim Jones

2009  “Iran is very focused on developing this capability […] The clock is ticking and that’s why I’m as concerned as I am.”–Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen

2010Without progress in the next few months, we risk nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, war prompted by an Israeli strike, or both.”–Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

2010: Iran has “no interest in building international confidence that their nuclear program is for peaceful means […]Time and patience is running out.”–White House spokesman Robert Gibbs

2012:  ”I believe there is a window of time to solve this diplomatically, but that window is closing.”–President Barack Obama

March 31, 2012: Iran’s “window of opportunity […] will not remain open forever.”–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

April 4, 2012: “We want to see a peaceful resolution of the international community’s concerns, but the time for diplomacy is not infinite and all options remain on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Really, is the time for diplomacy “not infinite”? Are we genuinely “running out of time”? Is it truly “time to make a choice”? And are we honestly “determined to stop them”? History would suggest otherwise. And why would the Iranians believe us now?

Danielle Pletka is the Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at AEI.

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