Lieberman skeptical, but open to, Iran engagement


Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he was skeptical about whether diplomatic engagement with Iran would work, but told a hawkish group last night that he’s willing to give it a chance.

Speaking Wednesday evening to the third annual dinner of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Lieberman said engagement with Iran needs to be conducted "in the spirit of truthfulness — with clear goals and deadlines, carrots and sticks."

He emphasized that the U.S. disagreement with Iran "is not the result of a misunderstanding or the policies of the Bush administration," but the "result of very differeng world views."

Lieberman said that the Iran sanctions legislation he introduced last week with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) — also a speaker at the EMET dinner — and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) would bolster the Obama administration’s negotiating position with the Iranian republic. The bill targets shippers, bankers and insurers who deal with Iran’s energy sector.

Noting that both conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had signed on as cosponsors, he quipped that "the lambs may be lying down with lions" to back this bill.

Kyl — whom Lieberman joked had co-sponsored so many bills with him that some people think "Kyl" is his first name — said the sanctions legislation is one "piece" that the United States hasn’t yet tried in countering Iran, and that if the U.S. does not enact it, "we will have failed on our watch to do everything we can do."

The EMET "Rays of Light in the Darkness" dinner honors those from the Arab and Muslim world who speak out against radical Islam. This year’s honoress included Walid Phares, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Tawfik Hamad, a former member of Jamaa Islamiya who is president of the Global Movement Against Radical Islam. Former CIA director James Woolsey was also a speaker at the Capitol Hill event.

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