Like Iran Talks, Obama Meeting With Pakistan Leader Is A Foreign Policy Test

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

President Obama is meeting with Pakistan's leader today, to produce a strategy that will test the limits of Mr. Obama's openness to talk with U.S. foes:

Pakistani forces were continuing their assault on the Taliban on Tuesday as the country's leader flew to Washington to discuss strategy against the militant group with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama has reversed the isolationist policies of the Bush administration. That's a good thing. He is opening lines of communications with U.S. foes ignored by the Bush administration. Good in theory, not so great in practice, at least not so far.

Last month, he shook hands and joked around with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez returned the favor by calling Mr. Obama an "ignoramus" several days later.

Mr. Obama promised during the presidential campaign to open similar lines of communication with Iran. The results there, for now, have not been productive.

CAIRO (Reuters) - The United States will persist for now with diplomatic overtures to Iran despite the lack of a positive response from Tehran, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.

Visiting Egypt, Gates said some of Iran's statements in response to the administration of President Barack Obama had "not been very encouraging."

But he added: "We're not willing to pull the hand back yet because we think there's still some opportunity."

Obama's efforts to engage with Tehran mark a break with the policy of his predecessor George W. Bush, who once labeled Iran as part of an "axis of evil."

But Gates said any dialogue would likely develop slowly, if it happened at all. He also sounded a note of caution about the prospects of a positive response from Iran.

Mr. Obama has never promised to talk with Taliban leaders and that's a good thing. They are not open to hearing anything the United States has to say. Trying to help Pakistan deal with its Taliban problem, which threatens to unravel Pakistan's fragile government, is talk enough for the moment.

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By Bonnie Erbe
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