Analysts Divided Over Obama's Carrot-Without-Stick Approach to Iran

President Obama continues to extend an open hand to Iran in hopes that the Islamic nation will unclench its fist.

On the same day that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei turned his back to the president's diplomatic efforts, Obama reasserted that Iran is entitled to nuclear power for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"That commitment is at the core of the treaty and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it," Obama said in a speech at Cairo University in Egypt. "And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal."

Foreign analysts who spoke with were divided on whether Obama's carrot-without-stick approach can be effective in dealing with Iran, which the international community fears is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Kenneth Timmerman, executive director for the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, called Obama's statements "adolescent" and "unrealistic."

"I think he fails to understand the way the regime in Tehran operates," he said, claiming that Iran rejected a deal with Russia in 2007 to receive enough uranium for five nuclear reactors.

He noted that the regime is based on an ideology that includes destroying Israel and the United States. Iran and the U.S. have had not diplomatic ties since militant students took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.

"Really, the only thing the supreme leader of Iran wants to negotiate is the terms of our surrender," Timmerman said.

Obama acknowledged a "tumultuous" history between the two nations in his speech on Thursday but made an appeal to move forward with a clean slate.

"This history is well known," he said. "Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against but rather what future it wants to build."

According to Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, Tehran is not interested in hearing what Obama has to say.

Khamenei said before the president's speech that the United States is "deeply hated" in the Middle East and the hatred could not be changed with "slogans," according to a Reuters report.

"The nations of this part of the world ... deeply hate America," the news agency quoted Khamenei as saying. "Even if they give sweet and beautiful [speeches] to the Muslim nation ... that will not create change. Action is needed."

But Ziad J. Asali, founder and president of The American Task Force on Palestine, said it is refreshing to have "uncompromising" and "hateful" speech like that of Khameini's contrasted with a "more measured" and "statesmanlike" approach from Obama.

Obama's speech will "probably be better perceived by Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East than the Ayatollah's approach," Asali said. "People know this hateful rhetoric has been completely unhelpful to the people there."

He said Obama struck the right tone by making clear that the United States respects Iran but will not allow it to develop nuclear weapons.

But Timmerman disagreed. Asked what the president should have said in his speech, Timmerman responded, "I would be incapable of writing a speech for President Obama because he would never give it."

Timmerman said Obama should have appealed to the Iranian citizens' right to choose their leader and point out that the elections being held this month are a "sham" and a "farce" because all of the candidates have been handpicked by the supreme leader.

"Obama would never say that because he believes he can reach accommodations with an ideological regime, and it shows he does not understand the nature of the regime," Timmerman said.

But Stephen Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Obama administration is smart to wait to see how its diplomatic efforts and Iran's elections play out.

"I don't think it would have been wise to make a strong statement to jam down the Iranian's throat," he said.