Talking With the Enemy - Page 2 of 3

Talking With the Enemy

Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing, if, and only if, it can advance the interests of the United States,” he said. “We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives, including the lifting of sanctions, and political and economic integration with the international community. If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.”

Such pressure would include joining forces with other nations to isolate Iran by expanding financial sanctions, banning petroleum exports to Iran, and boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The Obama camp argues that Iran has been able to strengthen its position in the Middle East region and pursue its nuclear program without restraint because of the U.S.’s focus on Iraq. One of the Illinois senator’s senior foreign policy advisers, Susan Rice, who served as assistant secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton, says that both Bush and McCain would prefer to engage in military action with Iran or continue with the failed status quo of refusing to deal with the country directly until it suspends its nuclear program. The latter option, she argues, is “circular logic” because suspension of the nuclear program would be one of the main objectives of any negotiation with Iran.

“Obama’s approach is, rather than stay in that doom loop, to combine more robust sanctions, both unilateral and multilateral, with direct diplomacy with due preparations, but without self-defeating preconditions,” Rice says. “There are numerous options for strengthened multilateral sanctions, whether through the [United Nations] Security Council or in conjunction with our European partners, if additional Security Council sanctions prove impossible,” she adds. “The critical difference is that Obama would combine the leverage of sanctions with a willingness to engage with Iranian leaders after extensive preparation and lower-level work at an appropriate time, and if and when it serves U.S. interests. Obama would not place counterproductive preconditions on America’s willingness to meet with Iran, even at a high level. We do not take the view that Iran has to suspend its nuclear program before we talk to it about suspending its nuclear program.”

Stephen Zunes, a University of San Francisco professor who specializes in Middle Eastern issues, says that current policy toward Iran is hypocritical because Israel has refused to place its nuclear facilities under the trusteeship of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as it is required to do under U.N. Security Resolution 487. In addition, he says, North Korea threw international inspectors out of its country and started to develop nuclear weapons.

“If you were Iran and found your country listed as a member of the ‘axis of evil’ with Iraq and North Korea, and noticed Iraq had gotten rid of its nuclear weapons, allowed U.N. inspectors in, and got invaded anyway, occupied, and had its government overthrown, what would the message be? What would you learn from that?” Zunes asks.