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Sunday, May 25, 2008

The foolishness in talking

In an article in Saturday's WaPo, 2004 Democratic nominee and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry discusses the 'wisdom' of the United States talking to Iran.
Why should we engage with Iran?

In short, not talking to Iran has failed. Miserably.
The question of success or failure is not a black and white question. And while not talking to Iran has not stopped it from developing nuclear weapons, we certainly cannot empirically demonstrate that if we would talk to Iran, it would stop developing nuclear weapons. On the other hand, talking with Iran is fraught with risks. As Charles Krauthammer noted in the same newspaper on Friday:
A meeting with Ahmadinejad would not just strengthen and vindicate him at home, it would instantly and powerfully ease the mullahs' isolation, inviting other world leaders to follow. And with that would come a flood of commercial contracts, oil deals, diplomatic agreements -- undermining the very sanctions and isolation that Obama says he would employ against Iran.

As every seasoned diplomat knows, the danger of a summit is that it creates enormous pressure for results. And results require mutual concessions. That is why conditions and concessions are worked out in advance, not on the scene.

What concessions does Obama imagine Ahmadinejad will make to him on Iran's nuclear program? And what new concessions will Obama offer? To abandon Lebanon? To recognize Hamas? Or perhaps to squeeze Israel?
Kerry doesn't answer that question. Instead, he claims we have to try as if our 'trying' will automatically bring about a positive response from Iran (much in the manner that the Israeli left has argued for years that the 'Palestinians' have to reach a compromise with Israel because there is no other way - that argument is now debunked too).
Direct negotiations may be the only means short of war that can persuade Iran to forgo its nuclear capability. Given that a nuclear Iran would menace Israel, drive oil prices up past today's record highs and possibly spark a regional arms race, shouldn't we be doing all we can to avoid that conflagration?

Opponents of dialogue often quip that talking isn't a strategy. Walking away isn't a strategy, either. McCain says that "there's only one thing worse than the United States exercising the military option, that is, a nuclear-armed Iran." But for all his professed reluctance, when McCain disavows diplomacy, he is stacking the deck in favor of war.

What might we achieve by talking with Iran? Some say our engagement to date has not been productive -- but a less half-hearted and less conditional approach might well break the stalemate. We won't know until we try.

Dialogue helps us isolate Ahmadinejad rather than empowering him to isolate us. More important, even if we fail to reach an agreement, engaging Iran will spark three conversations likely to strengthen our position.

The first is between our leaders and Iran's. From nonproliferation to counterterrorism, frankly, Iran won't care for much of what we have to say -- but at the right moment, it is not unreasonable to think Tehran would cut a deal in exchange for economic incentives, energy assistance, diplomatic normalization or a noninvasion guarantee.

Second is the conversation America's president should be having with the Iranian people. We should seize the chance to tell some of the region's most pro-American people how their own president has isolated them, denying their great culture its place in the world and the region a constructive dialogue.

There's a reason the late Tom Lantos, Congress's only Holocaust survivor and a formidable diplomat, applied for a visa to enter Iran every year for the last decade of his life. What better way to puncture the petty lies of a demagogue than to force him to confront a man who has lived the very history he denies and trivializes?

Some have asserted that meeting with Iran's leaders would legitimize Ahmadinejad, who is neither Iran's supreme leader nor someone whom Obama specifically promised to meet. Curiously, many critics then hype Ahmadinejad as a threat of historic proportions, thereby granting the stature they seek to deny. Iranian elections in mid-2009 could yield a less objectionable president; engaging Iran makes that more likely.

The third conversation is with the world. By engaging Iran, we reclaim the moral high ground -- no small feat. If Iran refuses to budge, we have new leverage to expose it as a threat whose bad intentions cannot be explained away.
Sorry, but no. Ahmadinejad would be happy to let the United States talk itself red, white and blue in the face while he goes merrily along his way developing nuclear weapons. He has no interest in economic incentives and has said so each time they have been offered. Instead, he believes that his country has an inalienable right to develop nuclear energy weapons.

As to Kerry's second point, consider what happened when Ahmadinejad visited Columbia University last fall.

PJM’s Ardeshir Arian reports the following from inside Iran regarding Ahmadinejad’s speech today:

1) VOA Television nightly services on HotBird and TeleStar 12 satellites were disrupted in Tehran for about 20 minutes, as soon as he was to be introduced at Columbia university’s podium. Iranian citizens did not hear the criticism of Ahmadinejad by Columbia President Bollinger. The way the Islamic Republic does this is to scramble the signals of these satellites locally, using stationary and mobile microwave dishes.

What makes Kerry think that the words of any American diplomat 'negotiating' with the Iranians would be heard?

As to his third point, it's nonsense. The United States and its allies have tried more than enough to make Iran drop its nuclear aspirations through peaceful means and economic incentives. Enough is enough. At some point, you either concede that Iran will be a nuclear power - which an awful lot of people don't want to do - or you do something about it.

It's apparent that Kerry has no concept of the type of threat Ahmadinejad embodies. He has no clue that Ahmadinejad really is willing to bring death and destruction on Israel, on his own country and on other countries. He has no understanding of the fact that Ahamdinejad relishes mutually assured destruction and does not view it as a deterrent. And he has no commitment that Ahmadinejad must be stopped.

Other bloggers who have responded to Kerry include Hot Air and Neo-neocon (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).


At 5:58 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:00 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

What John Kerry fails to grasp is Iran's leaders are not Iranian nationalists. They are first and foremost Islamic revolutionaries imbued with a deep hatred of Israel and the U.S. As we've seen, they're not interested in rational incentives to change their behavior and while they would be happy to drag things out through talks, it would not moderate them. At some point, the U.S is going to have to either live with a nuclear Iran or use force. A nuclear armed Iran would change the face of the world - for the worse. If the U.S won't act, Israel will have to because she cannot live under the threat of imminent extinction. That's the issue - and also by extension the threat to the Free World is just as dire.


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