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Talking With the Enemy

“In other words, if they do have nuclear weapons ambitions, it’s probably as a deterrent to try to prevent them from being invaded.”

Zunes believes that Obama’s approach would be the more productive of the two, taking its cues from past presidents such as Richard Nixon, for example, who engaged in negotiations with leaders of China and the Soviet Union. “I think he would basically hear them out and find out where they’re coming from,” Zunes says. “He would see if there’s some kind of compromise to be met where Iran’s legitimate needs and concerns can be addressed and America’s needs and concerns can be addressed without allowing Iran to continue its provocative and illegitimate behaviors on various fronts.”

In his opinion, Iran is years away from producing nuclear weapons, although it has a program that could one day be used in military applications.

McCain has often pointed to Obama’s views on how to handle thorny issues such as Iran, withdrawal from Iraq, and others, as examples of his opponent’s inexperience and inability to handle such weighty problems if elected. But, Zunes says, “Most senior diplomats and international relations scholars from left, right, and center tend to agree with Obama. I think the real naiveté is in thinking that the failed policies of the Bush administration will work and that we shouldn’t try a different approach.”


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