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Talk To Iran? Clinton 'doubtful'

An interesting smoke signal from Hillary's State team:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "doubtful" that Iran will respond to U.S. overtures of engagement when they are made, said a senior State Department official on Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Clinton had told her counterpart from the United Arab Emirates that the United States was under "no illusion" over Iran, which the West suspects of building a nuclear bomb.

"She (Clinton) said she is doubtful that Iran will respond to any kind of engagement and opening the hand out and reaching out to them," said the official, who was speaking on the sidelines of an international donors' conference for Gaza in Egypt, where Clinton held a series of bilateral meetings.

I'm not terribly surprised that senior administration officials think this. I'm not entirely sure what the gain is in publicly saying it. I wonder if it could be some kind of effort to goad the regime in Tehran, which wants to avoid stiff new sanctions, into showing they're not totally recalcitrant.

P.S. For much more on Obama's still very formative approach to Iran, including more on the curious case of Dennis Ross, see my new print piece for TNR.

--Michael Crowley