Stopping an Iranian bomb

History’s lesson for the Obama administration seems straightforward: Short of regime change or military attack, the method most likely to persuade an anti-American, terrorist-sponsoring state such as Iran to cease its nuclear weapons program is credibly threatening the regime’s hold on power. While using intense diplomatic engagement with Tehran to make clear the historic opportunity that exists for reconciliation, the United States should simultaneously be working to confront the regime with a crippling combination of diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions and military coercion.

For the time being, at least, the administration seems inclined to pursue another tack. Rather than using engagement as a mechanism to clarify for Iran’s rulers the stark choice they face, President Obama appears singularly focused on demonstrating America’s intense desire for improved relations. The results so far are not encouraging, with successive expressions of U.S. goodwill reciprocated by a series of Iranian provocations: the launch of an Iranian satellite; the unveiling of a factory to produce nuclear fuel; the arbitrary arrest (and subsequent release) of an American journalist on trumped-up espionage charges.