President Obama, in a meeting yesterday afternoon with a handful of reporters, including The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder and yours truly, said that he has heard "rumblings" that the muscular sanctions recently imposed on Iran by the U.N., the E.U. and by the U.S., might be influencing the regime's thinking about its nuclear program, but he acknowledged that the regime, for reasons of ideology or nationalist pride, might rather suffer the consequences of sanctions rather than give up its nuclear program.
Marc has posted a thorough write-up of the session. He described the impetus for the meeting this way: "The session, as envisioned by his aides, was designed to convince his audience that
Obama's policy of engagement matched by sanctions is having the desired
effect of isolating Iran from the international community even as the
country seems to be to speeding up its efforts to obtain the equipment
necessary to finish a bomb." I got the sense that this session represented something of a victory lap for his national security team, which had worked assiduously to implement stronger sanctions against Iran than skeptics had thought possible. On the other hand, the proof of the success of sanctions is not in their strength, or in their multilateral character, but in whether or not they convince the Iranians to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons."Changing their calculus is very difficult, even though this is painful for them and we are
beginning to see rumblings in Iran that they are surprised by
successful we've been," Obama said. "That doesn't mean that they aren't
working actively to get around it. But the costs of the sanctions are
going to be higher than Iran would have anticipated six months ago,
even three months ago."
He then said, "It may be that there are ideological commitment to nuclear weapons is such that they're not making a simple cost benefit analysis on this issue. If Iran's "national pride" drives their policy, "then they will bear the costs of that." Obama reiterated, in language that struck me as slightly more cautious than usual, that "all options" are available to the U.S. to stop the nuclear-arming of Iran." There is no chance Obama will take the military option off the table; there is a small chance, in my opinion, that he would one day resort to the use of military force against Iran's nuclear facilities.