Eight or nine of us hacks were called into the White House last week to meet with President Obama on the subject of Iran, and I think we all left the Roosevelt Room with completely different understandings of what we had just heard. The Washington Post's David Ignatius left thinking that the President was offering, in his usual subtle way, a new opening for diplomatic engagement. Robert Kagan, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, left thinking the President was trying to underscore his toughness on the issue of multilateral sanctions. I left thinking, "Why no snacks?" They didn't even offer us fruit juice or water, and it was a hundred degrees outside.
I also left the room thinking -- and I later had my thinking confirmed by a (you should pardon the expression) senior administration official I spoke to that night -- that Kagan's interpretation of the briefing's rationale was more accurate than was Ignatius's. "We have some real achievements in seeing the sanction on Iran take hold," the official said. "The President said we are hearing rumblings of discontent on the Iranian street about the sanctions, and we wanted you guys to know that we feel the pressure we're putting on Iran is beginning to work."