It's time to talk to Iran*
by Erin Alecto
Tom Friedman just told Keith Olberman that we can and should change our relationship with Iran and I agree wholeheartedly. So does Mohamed ElBaradei:
PRAGUE (Reuters) - The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's stated readiness for dialogue with Iran without preconditions could make Tehran more forthcoming with his agency, the IAEA.
Western powers fear Iran aims to use uranium enrichment to gain the means to make atom bombs. An International Atomic Energy Agency investigation into intelligence allegations that Iran's program is not wholly for generating electricity, as it says, has stalled in disputes over the scope of inquiries.
In a little-noticed essay at The Washington Note, *Faith Smith, a Research Associate at the New America Foundation, made a compelling case for "dialogue with Iran without preconditions" in October:
What about preconditions? The Bush administration said it will negotiate with Iran only if it halts its uranium enrichment program first. While we are concerned with Iran's human rights abuses, their support for regional terrorist groups, and the absence of an apology for the hostage crisis of 1979, the most pressing concern right now is their nuclear program. Why would the Iranians sacrifice their strongest bargaining chip before entering negotiations? The Iranians are much better negotiators than that.
It should be noted that Iran is willing to talk to us. No preconditions. Let's not forget the US imposed sanctions that Iran would happily do without. They could demand preconditions from us, but they haven't.
We want Iran to halt their nuclear program. But what does Iran really want from the United States? In one word: respect. Like every nation born of revolution, Iran wants legitimization. The fact that the US has never formally recognized the Islamic Republic remains a thorn in their side.
An agreement to meet, formally--no more backroom meetings--would be a great show of respect to the country and its citizens. Sanctions and rhetoric have done exactly the opposite of their intended goal. The more we try to push Iran into a corner, the stronger their resolve and regional support. The moderates in Iran are weakened by a stubborn US administration and Ahmadinejad is proven correct.
El Baradai believes that a direct dialogue with the US would give the needed political component that would help his team move forward with their investigations. While they've verified Iran's declared activities, and enrichment program, he says, they're not able to clarify questions concerning links to Iran's military program. The IAEA's progress report comes out later this month with the details, and if Raw Story's source is correct, some publicly touted evidence of military links might be called into question.
Basically, what El Baradai, Friedman and I, as well as Faith Smith and I'm sure many others are concerned about is where Iran is headed in the future, and the best way to have an influence on that future is if we have some kind of relationship other than shouting insults back and forth. We've seen how eight years of cowboy diplomacy has worked - not very well. It's time to try the real thing for a change; at this point, it couldn't hurt.