Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Talking With Iran

My visting ex-diplomat stepdad and I were talking last night on the way to our favorite local Vietnamese restaurant. He was lamenting the Bush administration's failure to launch diplomatic initiatives towards our enemies.

"This is the only administration that doesn't talk to its enemies," he said.

Yes, but I've always agreed with Bush's decision to take a strong public stand against the terror-sponsoring states of the Middle East by extending the longstanding "We don't negotiate with terrorists" policy to a higher level. (Of course North Korea does get talked to. My stepdad attributed the negotiations to the departure of "no talk hawks" like John Bolton. But of course, those talks started while the hawks were still in. I think we're talking to NoKo because we were able to bring all the major regional parties to the table. Who would we bring to Tehran? The Saudis? Not a chance!)

But still, I agree with him that talks with Tehran and Damascus are worth a try, as long as we go into them with it clear that diplomacy has barely risen above the gag reflex, and that we don't define diplomacy as "giving away the store," as Jimmy Carter did.

Then, this morning while scanning Real Clear Politics, I came across this by Amir Taheri in the NYPost:
IS the Khomeinist leadership preparing to retreat from confrontation over Tehran's nuclear ambitions?

Until recently, the answer was an emphatic "No." According to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, such retreat would limit Islamic sovereignty by giving the United Nations a veto on Iran's energy policy.

But now Tehran is trying to forestall the passage of a second, and presumably tougher, resolution by the Security Council in March.

Several versions of the presumed Iranian initiative are in circulation. Former President Muhammad Khatami presented one to American and European personalities on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

Taheri's careful selection of the word "personalities" is interesting. I take it to mean John Kerry, a man whose Carteresque softness the mullahs must find appealing. Of course it could be anyone; what's important that it was someone.

Let's continue to pass notes. I liked Bush's in-your-face refusal to deal with Tehran, but now that the evidence is mounting up of its active involvement in the killing of our troops in Iraq, it's time for icy cold diplomatic confrontation, backed by military might and political will.

With the changes in Washington, there's no telling how long the military might and political will are going to last, so it's time to engage. Pass a few more notes, then sit down and yell at each other for a while with diplomatic faux-civility.

Maybe it will save the lives of some of our soldiers who are being killed by Iranian-supplied IEDs.

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