Friday, May 26, 2006

Should we engage Iran directly?

Yes, says David Ignatius of the Washington Post:

“Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian analyst with the International Crisis Group, noted in Senate testimony last week that opinion polls show 75 percent of Iranians favor relations with the United States. "Embarking on a comprehensive dialogue with Iran would provide the U.S. with the opportunity to match its rhetorical commitment to Iranian democracy and human rights with action," Sadjadpour said. He's right.

There's no guarantee that a policy of engagement will work. The Iranian regime's desire to acquire nuclear weapons may be so unyielding that Tehran and Washington will remain on a collision course. But America and its allies will be in a stronger position for responding to Iranian calls for dialogue. Openness isn't a concession by America, it's a strategic weapon.”

No. Absolutely not,” says Charles Krauthammer, far less equivocally:

“Pushing Washington to abandon the multilateral process and enter negotiations alone is more than just rank hypocrisy. It is a pernicious folly. It would short-circuit the process that after years of dithering is about to yield its first fruits -- sanctions that Tehran fears. It would undo the allied consensus, produce endless new delays and give Iran more time to reach the point of no return, after which its nuclear status would be a fait accompli.

Entering negotiations carries with it the responsibility to do something if they fail. The EU-3 understood that when they took on the mullahs a couple of years ago. Bilateral U.S.-Iran talks are the perfect way to now get Europe off the hook. They would pre-empt all the current discussions about sanctions, place all responsibility for success on U.S.-Iran negotiations and set America up to take the blame for their inevitable failure.

It is an obvious trap. We should resolutely say no.”

Krauthammer does allow for one exception: We should be willing to negociate only “If the allies, rather than shift responsibility for this entire process back to Washington, will reassert their responsibility by pledging support for U.S. and/or coalition military action against Iran in the event that the bilateral U.S.-Iran talks fail."


Roger said...

I've never heard sanctions referred to as 'fruits' before.

montana urban legend said...

The Der Spiegel interview of Ahmedenidenidenijad (hat tip to Andrew Sullivan) shows just how wiley and politically astute this guy is. My bet is his talents will lead this theocrat to consolidate the regime under a just practical enough combination of populism and socialism. The "nuclear energy as our right" meme resonates with Iranians, as might the easing of religious police patrols and rhetorical attacks on the wealthier among the clergy. I don't know what we'll do but think the Krauthammer approach is better realpolitick and will at least be favored by the current administration. I haven't read much of Thomas P.M. Barnett lately but last I checked he seemed to think Iran's nuclear ascendancy is not only inevitable, but overhyped as a geopolitical matter. I don't know that I agree or at least that I would therefore legitimize the "light-touch" approach, but it's probably worth reading for more perspective.

For a wittier slap against Iran's stance and the more lackluster reactions that it's so far produced, check out Peter Kovachev on HNN.

Here's the the original article by Polk

montana urban legend said...

Even more in-depth analysis on the Iranian situation - especially internally, and with a greater array of potential options for engagement.

Thanks to Zenpundit.