I don’t think it should be advantage Obama. I would argue there is a huge difference between (1) talking to Iran because you believe you will find unexpected common ground and (2) seriously negotiating with Iran – letting the regime’s leaders know what incentives you’ll give in exchange for what you want, but also what the consequences for them will be if agreement is not reached.
At the Iraq Study Group (the “expert advisors” to the Baker/Hamilton Commission who still gather) it has been my role, every time the subject of negotiations with Iran has been raised, to say: “Fine, but can we lay out what we are willing to offer and what we are prepared to threaten?” There’s never been even an attempt to answer that basic question.
I don’t mean to be self-referential but I wrote a column here on NRO on this subject back in 2006 in which I made these points and also quoted Teddy Roosevelt: “Diplomacy is utterly useless where there is no force behind it.”
That’s what Reuel is saying. That is not what Obama is saying.