Iran has requested direct talks with the U.S. over its nuclear development program. This, following an 18 page letter written to Bush, is the first real interaction we have had from Iran in the past 25 years. Both the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have endorsed direct negotiations with the U.S.
Sa far, Bush has dismissed all overtures to the U.S. as being purely tactical. This could be correct, but it might also be wrong. By rejecting the Iranians outright, bush may be missing an opportunity to make substantial progress on the issue. To start to analyze the issue, we must remember that Iran does have every legal right to engage in a peaceful nuclear program. It is only on nuclear weapons that we have any standing to intervene
In 1962, despite hard-line rhetoric coming out of the Soviet Union in regards to the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy was smart enough to open up back door communications with Khrushchev, do some dealing, and successfully end the nuclear stand off. If Kennedy had not had the foresight to engage the USSR diplomatically, and instead played only a game of nuclear chicken, we would have either endured missiles in Cuba for the next 30 years, or even possibly engage in nuclear war.
For Bush not to engage the Iranians in talk is foolhardy in the least, and possibly down right disastrous. Maybe the talks would be fruitless, but a door not knocked upon is a door never opened.
The only reasons for not engaging the Iranians at this point is either because Bush cannot swallow his cowboy machismo, or he is hanging political advantage on ratcheting up tensions with Iran even further.
Either way, rejecting the Iranians outright is a dereliction of his duty to the American people. There is little upside to outright rejection and a big down side. Not only would the Iranian leaders be put in better standing in the eyes of their own people, but we loose future opportunities for meaningful progress without "complete submission" by the Iranians (which we already know they don't go for). If negotiations fail, we can always go back to the current course of actions.
Iran Requests Direct Talks on Nuclear Program
By Karl Vick and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2006; Page A01
TEHRAN, May 23 -- Iran has followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent letter to President Bush with explicit requests for direct talks on its nuclear program, according to U.S. officials, Iranian analysts and foreign diplomats.
The eagerness for talks demonstrates a profound change in Iran's political orthodoxy, emphatically erasing a taboo against contact with Washington that has both defined and confined Tehran's public foreign policy for more than a quarter-century, they said.