Is Obama Crazy? Or Should We Talk with Iran?

Recently, when asked if he as president would sit down with Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, Barack Obama said he would. Several on the political right screamed bloody murder--especially that he would cavort with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Besides the fact that's not what he said, I'm not so sure having closer communication with Iran is such a bad idea.

Hillary Clinton was recently asked what she would do to Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. She stated that as president she would obliterate Iran. Recently asked if she still stood by her statement, she said she did:
Sen. Hillary Clinton today defended her statement that the United States would "obliterate" Iran if it ever launched a nuclear strike on Israel. "Why would I have any regrets?"
Iran, according to the latest US National Intelligent Estimate, has stopped nuclear weapons research, although they continue to enrich uranium. It's probably not very likely,

We had talks with the Soviets when they had 40,000 nuclear weapons. The Chinese currently have thousands. Iran has zero. Why are we afraid to have talks with them?

even if Clinton served two terms as president, that she would be confronted with an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel.

And, for heaven sakes, Israel can take care of itself anyway, Ms. Clinton.

Currently the average Iranian would love to have more interaction with the US. The Iranian people were the most genuinely saddened by the 9/11 attacks on America. The people there love western music, movies, and blue jeans. Imagine how negatively Iranian (and Middle Eastern) sentiment would be affected if we "obliterated" Iran.

This is one area where Obama and Clinton are very different in their approaches. Obama chastized Clinton's remarks for sounding very Bushian. I agree.
"Well, it's not the language that we need right now, and I think it's language that's reflective of George Bush. We have had a foreign policy of bluster and saber-rattling and tough talk, and, in the meantime, we make a series of strategic decisions that actually strengthen Iran.
In addition to threatening to attack Israel, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has "denied" the holocaust. But what about the rest of the Iranian ruling class? Did they say anything like this?

The only way I would modify Obama's intent would be to suggest that he wait until after the June 2009 elections in Iran before sitting down for talks--Ahmadinejad might not be president anymore.

Conservatives galore have called Obama an appeaser and willing to negotiate with terrorists. I think that's bunk. I'm not sure how they can really be so narrow minded with everything that we know about Iran. Hillary Clinton made a terrible faux pas with her "obliteration" comment. Obama said he is willing to sit down and talk. But he didn't say that he would be a pansy about it.

Ron Paul makes a good point about communicating with our adversaries, using the Soviet Union as an example:
I fear our policy towards Iran is a threat. [...] We [should] have a more sensible policy, we talk to them and trade with them. We remove the sanctions. I mean, the Soviets had 40,000 [nuclear weapons]. I was called up for military duty in 1962 during the Cuban crisis. The height of the Cold War and we won the Cold War, we didn’t have to go a nuclear war. We won that by being strong by talking to the Soviets, we talked to Khrushchev. We have a lot more than Iran, Iran has none.
Obama said something similar:
Here’s the truth: the Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear weapons, and Iran doesn’t have a single one. But when the world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust, Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba. Why shouldn’t we have the same courage and the confidence to talk to our enemies? That’s what strong countries do, that’s what strong presidents do, that’s what I’ll do when I’m president of the United States of America.
Not that I support Obama for president (Ron Paul would be infinitely better). But on this issue, they're both right. Have you thought of the likelihood that China has perhaps thousands of nuclear weapons right now--but we associate with them?

Iran is being held up by the neocons as a much greater bogey monster than it really is. As long as Iran knows that we have a big stick and that we will use it as necessary, there can only be positives that come out of communication with them.


  1. Everyone is missing two major points here.

    First, talking to Iran et al is not the same as talking to Canada, Sweden or anyone else that is willing upfront to negotiate in good faith.

    Second, when we talked to the Soviets, we achieved our biggest successes when our actions brought them to the table. These regimes negotiate in good faith only when they absolutely have to.

    Reagan mentioned this point in his "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech in 1987 in Berlin.

    When the U.S. and NATO decided to deploy Pershing II missiles in western Europe in the mid-1980s in response to the USSR's deployment of SS-20s in eastern Europe, and when the U.S. decided to stand up the Soviets in Afghanistan, Africa, and Latin America, and when the U.S. embarked on its huge defense buildup, the Soviets had no choice but to negotiate in good faith.

    The same applies to peace talks in Korea in 1953. The Communists agreed to negotiate in good faith only after so much bloodshed convinced them that carrying on the fight made no sense.

    Talking to Iran will only be productive if we have sticks and carrots. Right now, due to our dependence on imported oil -- even if none of it comes from Iran directly, it's still a major factor -- we don't have a lot of sticks other than total nuclear annihilation.

    Until we are in a situation where we can drive down the price of oil and hit Iran where it hurts most, in their bank accounts, talking won't accomplish much. It will be like negotiating with the North Vietnamese in the early 1970s. Within a short time after the peace treaty, the North tore up the treaty and conquered the South.

    We can expect similar actions from Iran.

  2. Well said, Anonymous. I was thinking along those same lines as I read Frank's post.

    Though Frank would likely count me among the evil "neocons," I'm not entirely opposed to talks with Iran. Frank makes a good point- wait until Ahmadinejad is out. There's been some friction between him and the ayatollah these last few years, and it wouldn't surprise me if he lost his next "election."

    That said, I don't think we should dismiss Iran as a threat. Not the Iranian people, who are quite culturally Westernized, but the country's rulers who've stated over and over that Israel will be wiped off the map and who have backed the insurgency in Iraq.

    In fact, Saddam Hussein was more afraid of Iran than he was of the U.S. In a 60 Minutes interview that ran on Jan 27th, Saddam's interrogator said that Saddam confessed that while he really had now WMD's, he acted like he did because he was bluffing Iran:

    "Before his wars with America, Saddam had fought a ruinous eight year war with Iran and it was Iran he still feared the most.

    'He believed that he couldn't survive without the perception that he had weapons of mass destruction?' Pelley asks.

    'Absolutely,' Piro says."

    Saddam told his interrogator that he expected some kind of short air campaign from the U.S.- but that he thought it would be worth it to keep Iran afraid of him.

    Granted, Saddam did greatly miscalculate Bush, so I take his read on Iran with a grain of salt.

    But I agree with Anon that we should force Iran to the table when we've actually got sticks and carrots, and right now we don't.

  3. Despite the indisputable fact that Iran has never attacked another country, and has no nuclear weapons, I still find Hillary's position disturbing.

    More than 71 million people live in Iran, most in densely populated urban areas. How can anyone speak casually of "obliterating" 71 million people?

  4. Iran has never attacked another country?! What planet do you live on? Iran has a steady stream of attacks on other nations, mostly through surrogates, beginning in 1978. If you're going to defend Iran, go ahead. But don't say they haven't attacked other countries simply because they have never slapped down a formal U.N.-recognized declaration of war.

  5. I may have mentioned this before, but I think it all comes down to what outcome we are seeking...

    By refusing to speak to Iran, and continually threatening them, we're continually feeding a conflict, the only way out of which is for one side to annihilate the other, unless one side gives in. I can't see the US giving in, and I can't see Iran doing it either.

    If we begin talking to them, it gives us significantly more options down the line, including but not limited to, fostering an open relationship that might help alleviate some of the tension in the middle east. It may take a while for that open relationship to develop, but it's more likely if we don't keep threatening them with annihilation.

    There is a very marked difference between talking with someone and tactics such as appeasement.

    Personally I would like to think the US is above using fear and manipulation to control other countries, isn't that why the US broke off from England?

  6. UK,

    That's what I like best about discussions with Iran--the options that it gives us. Ahmadinejad won't be there forever, and the people will appreciate that we have no intention of frying them with nukes. Of course, the drums of war are getting louder, and we should be getting more and more nervous.


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