As I mentioned in an update below, Haaretz is reporting that the U.S. is working to block the G8 from imposing financial sanctions against Iran at next week’s meeting, which is good enough (and, frankly, surprising enough) news that it deserves a post of its own. The report is being met with criticism from the predictable members of the fantasy-based community, which of course is reason enough to greet it with cheers. (That these are the same people who were complaining in 2003 that sanctions against Iraq were ineffective and war was the only answer adds a disturbing layer of irony.) As Daniel explained the other week, recent history gives us no reason at all to think that sanctions would be an effective way of penalizing the Iranian regime, and as I have been arguing consistently since the elections, taking a “tough” stance simply to make a show of it is an absolutely perfect way to guarantee that there will be no meaningful diplomatic progress in the foreseeable future. One hopes, then, that the Obama administration can retain its sane and principled stance in the face of what will undoubtedly be significant resistance from its European counterparts.

That said, the Haaretz report sort of buries the lede:

The Obama administration, according to the diplomatic sources, has discarded the notion of direct talks with Iran. However, the United States is still interested in re-engaging Iran through the renewed discussion of its nuclear program through the five permanent United Nations Security Council members and Germany.

Given what we have already seen of the French and German responses to the situation in Iran, that latter sentence seems to suggest an empty gesture at best; at worst, and perhaps more likely, this will end up being perceived  by the Iranians as an inflammatory decision that will pose a significant setback to Obama’s promised attempts at engagement (which, you’ll recall, were not to be a reward for good behavior). Such a course may be the best one can expect given the foreign and domestic pressures that the administration has been facing over the past few weeks, but it’s disappointing in any case. U.S. officials are cited in the report as claiming that “a tough stance toward Iran could backfire, bringing about an opposite outcome to that desired by those who support” the push for financial sanctions: why, though, should we think that the diplomatic “toughness” involved in withdrawing the promise of one-on-one talks wouldn’t have a very similar effect?