Still, Obama's Iran team — Ross; the courtly under secretary of state William Burns; the dapper deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon; the studious senior N.S.C. official Puneet Talwar (the only one, other than Takeyh, who has been to Iran); the hard-charging organization man Denis McDonough, who controls strategic communication at the White House — faced a difficult choice between sticking with strategic outreach to the regime and questioning its legitimacy in the name of human rights. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose instincts on Iran have always been more hawkish than the president's, "was pushing for a harder line sooner after the June 12 vote," a Mideast expert close to her told me last month. She was supported by her friend Joe Biden, the vice president. They did not prevail. The tone was cautious; although Obama's denunciations of the clampdown grew stronger as it worsened, the extended hand, which had proved more unsettling to Iran than all the Bush administration bluster, was not withdrawn.
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