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Robert Gates And Richard Holbrooke, Doubters

Surely, the president's attempted enticements of Iran are not over. No one could have imagined -and certainly not someone as cerebral as he- that a televised missive to the people of Iran would have done the trick. In any case, his strategy (and it is not a trick) is to talk openly to the Persian masses, the declining middle class and restless youth, to engage the most enlightened of the political strata, and to show tough resolve on not permitting the mullahs to acquire or to manufacture nuclear weapons in west Asia.

I wish this diplomatic design would work. Inshallah. But you know already that I don't believe it will.

Nonetheless, what he did say was sober and neither haughty nor supine. Take, on the other hand, Shimon Peres, yet again inflated with his own ego and making it the message of the people of Israel to the Iranians. "Return to the civilized world," said Peres, as if Persian civilization had nothing going for it and needed his personal clarion call to make something of itself.

I suspect that secretary of defense Robert Gates and special envoy Richard Holbrooke also have their deep doubts about the diplomatic route to the minds and hearts of the Iranian elites and the millions below. According to the Associated Press, Gates told Fox News that much more severe economic sanctions were needed to get Iran to stop its efforts -frantic efforts, I believe- to secure a nuclear bomb arsenal. Gates said he didn't think that Tehran had an atomic weapon yet. But, then, others in the administration think they may. In any case, if the urgent need is to impose sanctions, that will need greater cooperation in the Security Council. And not rhetorical cooperation. Alas, that won't happen.

Appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Holbrooke said he wasn't getting his hopes up regarding a warming of relations with the Islamic Republic in the near future.