President Barack Obama tried his best to avoid it, but the moment has now arrived when he has no choice but to impose new sanctions on Iran. The challenge now is to find the formula that will prove effective in pressuring the regime without undermining Iranian protesters who have risked their lives to demand change.
Obama's commitment to use diplomacy in dealing with Iran became a cornerstone of the foreign policy approach he constructed during his presidential campaign. He vowed to use fair-minded negotiations, a respectful tone, and reasonable arguments to convince the Islamic Republic to stop enriching uranium in violation of United Nations resolutions. To those who dismissed his efforts as naïve, claiming Iran would simply run the clock and get closer to nuclear weapons production while Washington talked, he promised he would stick by a strict deadline. With the start of 2010, that deadline has now passed.
The potential perils of imposing economic sanctions have become increasingly apparent in the months since Obama declared that, at the end of 2009, he would judge whether or not progress has been achieved on Iran's nuclear program -- which the U.S. and its allies are convinced aims to produce nuclear weapons.