Iran’s snub of US overtures for engagement -- such as its test of the Sajjil-2 missile -- give Obama the moral high ground for tougher economic sanctions.
At one level, President Obama’s strategy of an outstretched US hand to Iran has failed. His attempts to engage the Islamic regime have been rejected. On Wednesday, Iran’s test of its long-range Sajjil-2 missile only gave one more slap to Mr. Obama’s policy of diplomatic engagement with US enemies.
But wait. His patience may yet pay off.
Mr. Obama had set an end-of-year deadline for Iran to respond to overtures he made soon after taking office. Now with Iran clearly snubbing him, the US president is in a stronger position to rally nations behind tougher international sanctions on a regime that refuses to curb its nuclear program.
China and Russia could still insist on more patience toward Iran before they will allow the UN Security Council to ratchet up the economic isolation of Tehran. But their arguments will now ring more hollow. And their continuing willingness to trade with Iran will only expose them as complicit in starting an arms race in the Middle East and endangering Israel.
By his patience and openness to talks, Obama has earned the moral high ground for tighter, more focused sanctions. The Iranian people, too, may accept them, even if their daily lives might suffer – especially if the sale of gasoline to Iran can be blocked.