Thursday, October 23, 2008

Iran Is Job One

Cohen with some common sense on how to deal with Iran -- common sense that Obama has and McCain lacks:

These are realities. They may be unpalatable, but if there’s a lesson to the Bush years, it’s that dealing in illusions is unhelpful. The cost to Khamenei of a handshake with America is high.

But Iran also has some shared interests with America — in preventing a breakup of Iraq, in preventing the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan, in avoiding a violent confrontation of the Sunni and Shia worlds. It wants security, more economic access and, eventually, restored diplomatic relations with the United States.

All of this says to me: think big. Don’t obsess about the nuclear issue, critical as it is. Get everything on the table. Be realistic, as in: We have interests. You have interests. Are there areas in which they coincide?

Don’t lecture. Don’t moralize. Don’t demand everything — an end to the nuclear program and terrorism and Lebanese and Gazan interference — without the means to back such demands. That’s been the Bush failure.

I can already hear the outrage. But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president at least until elections next year, wants to wipe Israel off the map! He denies the Holocaust! Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia will race for their own bomb unless we take out the Iranian centrifuges!

To which I say: Focus on today’s reality, coldly. Iran does not have nuclear capacity yet. It’s time to talk.

And it’s time to find the greatest Americans, irrespective of party, to get that talking going. As Obama has noted: “We negotiated with Stalin. We negotiated with Mao.”

Speaking of the danger Iran poses, nobody understands this better than the Israelis, so this is important:

Former Israeli Security Experts on Obama...

In this short film, many of the most respected military and intelligence experts in Israel discuss the impact of the Bush/McCain foreign policy on Israel, the need for the United States to engage directly with Iran, and their personal feelings about Sen. Barack Obama.


October 23, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist

Iran Is Job One

Until he retired from the State Department earlier this year, Nicholas Burns was, as under secretary of state for political affairs, the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran.

And how many times, during his three years in this role, did he meet with an Iranian?

Not once.

Burns wasn’t allowed to. His presence was supposed to be the reward if the Iranians suspended uranium enrichment and sat down at the table.

Burns, now 52, joined the State Department in 1980. He’s among a generation of U.S. diplomats who have never set foot in Iran, the rising power of the Middle East, even with oil at $70 rather than double that.

Let me put this bluntly: If we’re serious about the Middle East, this has got to change.


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