Talking to Iran

TALKING TO IRAN….Unsurprisingly, Charles Krauthammer is resolutely opposed to talks with Iran. Also unsurprisingly, his writing on the subject is little more than the darkest and most hysterical sort of agitprop:

Mark my words. The momentum for U.S.-Iran negotiations has only begun. The focus of the entire Iranian crisis will begin to shift from the question of whether Tehran will stop its nuclear program to whether Washington will sit down alone at the table with Tehran.

To this cynical bait-and-switch, there can be no American response other than No. Absolutely not.

….Just yesterday the Democratic nominee for president attacked President Bush’s foreign policy precisely for refusing to consult with, listen to and work with “the allies.” Another day, another principle. Bush is now being pressured to abandon multilateralism and go it alone with Iran.

Nobody ? not one person ? is suggesting that Bush abandon Europe and negotiate with Iran unilaterally, and Krauthammer knows it. Rather, proponents of engagement with Iran believe that we should negotiate both multilaterally and bilaterally: multilaterally with our allies so that everyone has a stake in success, and bilaterally because sometimes you can accomplish things in private talks that you can’t in a more public forum. These two tracks can happen simultaneously, both formally and informally, and at multiple levels.

David Ignatius, a more sensible observer who, unlike Krauthammer, understands traditional American strengths and values, has the better argument:

America’s best strategy is to play to its strengths ? which are the open exchange of ideas, backed up by unmatched military power.

….There’s no guarantee that a policy of engagement will work. The Iranian regime’s desire to acquire nuclear weapons may be so unyielding that Tehran and Washington will remain on a collision course. But America and its allies will be in a stronger position for responding to Iranian calls for dialogue. Openness isn’t a concession by America, it’s a strategic weapon.

Amen to that. It’s time to stop listening to the loons.