I’m not going to dwell on the rather surreal op-ed within an op-ed in the New York Times today. I’d rather make a brief comment on the substance of the original op-ed itself (or at least the substance we can discern from the unredacted portions):
The Iraq Study Group has added its voice to a burgeoning chorus of commentators, politicians, and former officials calling for a limited, tactical dialogue with Iran regarding Iraq. The Bush administration has indicated a conditional willingness to pursue a similarly compartmented dialogue with Tehran over Iranâ€™s nuclear activities
Unfortunately, advocates of limited engagement â€” either for short-term gains on specific issues or to â€œtestâ€ Iran regarding broader rapprochement â€” do not seem to understand the 20-year history of United States-Iranian cooperation on discrete issues or appreciate the impact of that history on Iranâ€™s strategic outlook. In the current regional context, issue-specific engagement with Iran is bound to fail. The only diplomatic approach that might succeed is a comprehensive one aimed at a â€œgrand bargainâ€ between the United States and the Islamic Republic.
The authors of the op-ed make a point that I’ve been making here for some time: negotiations with Iran must put everything on the table. The idea that we can get something we really want from Iran, e.g. their cooperation in getting the situation in Iraq under control, while refusing to give the Iranian regime anything that they’re really interested in, e.g. security guarantees for the regime, acceptance of their nuclear development program, and, presumably, at least tacit acceptance of Iran’s growing influence in the region is, well, the kindest thing I can say about it is that it presumes facts not in evidence.
Iran is the regional superpower in the Middle East. Geography, economics, and demographics dictate that. We have interests in the region. They have interests in the region. The best we can hope for is negotiating with them on the basis of equality.
Rick Moran’s take on negotiating with Iran is closely related to but not completely congruent to my own. For example:
I see the efficacy of talking to Iran in a regional context regarding Iraqi security. And reality demands that we recognize that the Iranians have once again become a dominant player in the region â€“ perhaps the most dominant.
is my position in a nutshell. However, I’m not as enthusiastic about the prospects for our giving the regime security guarantees nor am I as sanguine about the likelihood of a â€œcolor revolutionâ€ in Iran sweeping the mullahocracy away to replace it with a better one (least of all a liberal, democratic one). I think that the mullahocracy has the will, means, and motivation to put down any conceivable opposition.
But on this Rick and I are in total agreement:
Talking is always better than bombing â€“ especially if you can achieve more by talking than you can by bombing. I donâ€™t know if the latter is true as it relates to Iran but I know that it would be unconscionable not to try.
I’ve been trying to locate commentary from the Left Blogosphere on the actual meat of the op-ed but so far all I’ve been able to identify so far are outrage and schadenfreude. This is an important subject and deserves more attention.
Come what may Bush will be president for another two yearsâ€”either serving out his term or testifying before endless inquiries. I don’t see that continued pounding does a great deal of good.
Still, you’d think the Bush Administration would quit while it’s behind. Lager mentality, I guess.
The Carpetbagger Report has a little substantive reaction:
This is hardly a radical, dangerous approach. Indeed, it seems to offer the president a roadmap towards an effective foreign policy, which would certainly be an improvement on the status quo.
Actually, I think it is a somewhat radical departure from more than 25 years of U. S. foreign policy with respect to Iran on the part of both Democratic and Republican presidents.