Illinois Senator (and presidential aspirant) Barack Obama, presumably in a bid to shake the lock that Hillary Clinton seems to have on her party’s nomination, has proposed aggressive personal diplomacy as a means of resolving the outstanding issues between Iran and the United States:
CHICAGO, Oct. 31 — Senator Barack Obama said he would “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran if elected president, and would offer economic inducements and a possible promise not to seek “regime change” if Iran stopped meddling in Iraq and cooperated on terrorism and nuclear issues.
In an hourlong interview on Wednesday, Mr. Obama made clear that forging a new relationship with Iran would be a major element of what he pledged would be a broad effort to stabilize Iraq as he executed a speedy timetable for the withdrawal of American combat troops.
Mr. Obama said that Iran had been “acting irresponsibly” by supporting Shiite militant groups in Iraq. He also emphasized that Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program and its support for “terrorist activities” were serious concerns.
But he asserted that Iran’s support for militant groups in Iraq reflected its anxiety over the Bush administration’s policies in the region, including talk of a possible American military strike on Iranian nuclear installations.
Making clear that he planned to talk to Iran without preconditions, Mr. Obama emphasized further that “changes in behavior” by Iran could possibly be rewarded with membership in the World Trade Organization, other economic benefits and security guarantees.
“We are willing to talk about certain assurances in the context of them showing some good faith,” he said in the interview at his campaign headquarters here. “I think it is important for us to send a signal that we are not hellbent on regime change, just for the sake of regime change, but expect changes in behavior. And there are both carrots and there are sticks available to them for those changes in behavior.”
Since this is the posture that I’ve been encouraging for several years here at The Glittering Eye, I applaud Sen. Obama for articulating that position now. As I’ve noted before, our sticks are not credible and the carrots we’ve been proffering haven’t been juicy enough. The key problem is that we haven’t wanted to offer anything to the Iranians that they really want. Sen. Obama proposes that we do so by offering security assurance and that would be a breakthrough in U. S.-Iranian relations.
My friend Rick Moran is in substantial agreement with me:
There are other carrots we can hold out to the Iranians including unlimited access to enriched uranium for their power plants as well as joint enrichment projects on Iranian soil with other nuclear powers. These are similar deals we’re making with the North Koreans and hold out the promise to end the threat of nuclear weapons from that country.
I realize my conservative brethren are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at this point. The IAEA? ElBaradei’s nuclear enablers? Obviously, such a deal would depend on full disclosure of the Iranian nuclear program and unconditional cooperation by the mullahs in the kind of monitoring and inspection regimes that would be effective. It would take time to negotiate and set up and in the end, may not even be 100% satisfactory to the United States and our allies.
But as an alternative to war, it’s a good start.
Make no mistake. Military options short of annihilating the Iranians with nuclear weapons are rather more likely to achieve the opposite of the results that we might want, moving the Iranian people to rally ’round the present regime rather than removing it. So something along the lines that Sen. Obama is proposing is really our best available path.
There’s at least one particular in which I disagree with Sen. Obama. Iranian actions may be responses to American policies but they aren’t solely responses to our policies. After all, the Middle East is Iran’s neighborhood and they’d have vital national interests in the region whatever Americans did. It isn’t all about us.
Can a course be steered by which both U. S. and Iranian interests are respected? I think it will be difficult but I’d certainly like to see somebody try. The very first step is for both sides in such a negotiation to acknowledge the legitimacy of the other’s interests.
With all due respect to Ed Morrissey, what Sen. Obama is proposing is not a rerun of offers made in 2005. The part that caught my eye in the article in the NYT are the words security assurance. To the best of my knowledge that’s a dramatic departure from present U. S. policy with respect to Iran.