What happened
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday said Iran could soon face new sanctions if it doesn’t stop delaying meaningful talks on curbing its nuclear program. The Bush administration sent a representative to a Geneva meeting aimed at moving negotiations along, breaking with a longstanding policy not to engage Iran directly until it stops enriching uranium. (Los Angeles Times)

What the commentators said
Agreeing to talk to Tehran before it halts its nuclear program is a huge mistake, said Michael Rubin in The Wall Street Journal. This kind of “whiplash diplomacy” will only breathe “new life into a failing regime” by letting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claim that he “brought Washington to its knees through blunt defiance” and the “murder of U.S. troops in Iraq.”

“Iran has not given an iota of encouragement to those who want to play this game,” said Marty Peretz in The New Republic’s The Spine blog. The U.S. might not be willing to admit it, but there is a broad consensus among Israelis that Israel “will have to ensure its own survival by taking out Iran's nuclear facilities.”

The big-stick approach strengthens Iranian hard-liners, said Brian T. Edwards in the Chicago Tribune. It makes ordinary Iranians forget “their political frustrations” and line up behind Ahmadinejad. Speaking directly to Tehran—as Barack Obama advocates—validates the democratic process and might just make ordinary Iranians feel empowered enough to demand change from within.