In its rush to diplomatically engage Iran, the Obama Administration has found itself in the embarrassing position of appearing to be softer than France, which until recently had been a leading advocate of Europe’s “critical engagement” with Iran — a policy which offered Iran lucrative trade deals, but precious little criticism.

The Administration reportedly is considering the unilateral abandonment of a crucial condition embedded in the 2007 diplomatic initiative made by the P5 + 1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) which required Iran to halt its uranium enrichment and other suspicious nuclear activities in exchange for a promise not to impose new U.N. Security Council sanctions. The French government, which has toughened its Iran policy under Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, promptly fired a warning shot across the administration’s bow by insisting yesterday that Iran must suspend “sensitive” nuclear activities during any talks with the P5-1.

France is right. By dropping its demand that Tehran must freeze its uranium enrichment work, the Obama Administration runs the intolerable risk that Iran will engage in endless talks about its ominous nuclear program while pushing ahead to acquire growing stocks of enriched uranium, which subsequently could be enriched further to arm a nuclear weapon. After years of Iranian denial and duplicity on the nuclear front, such a diplomatic concession would be naïve and irresponsible. It would allow Tehran to run out the clock, stave off further sanctions, and eventually present the world with a nuclear fait accompli. And then there would be little to negotiate about.

For more information and policy recommendations on Iran’s nuclear program go to the Iran Briefing Room.